Sexual difficulties common after major trauma

By Anthony J. Brown, MD

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Nearly one third of people who suffer severe injuries are likely to have sexual problems a year later, according to findings recently presented at the meeting of the American College of Surgeons.

“Previous studies have shown that men and women who sustain pelvic fractures and spinal cord injuries are at risk for sexual dysfunction. However, no studies have looked at the broad population of patients who sustained other injuries,” Dr. Mathew D. Sorensen, from the University of Washington, Seattle, told Reuters Health.

His team theorized that just sustaining a severe injury might bring on sexual problems. “This might be due to physical or emotional limitations, since patients who sustain severe injuries have persistent issues even one year after their injury.”

To investigate, Sorensen and his colleagues collected data on more than 10,000 patients treated at 69 hospitals across the US, who were surveyed about sexual dysfunction a year after sustaining moderate to severe trauma. Sixty-eight percent of the subjects were male.

Overall, 3087 patients reported some degree of sexual dysfunction. This translates to a rate of about 30 percent, which is roughly twice that reported in studies of healthy individuals.

Sexual difficulties occurred with comparable frequency in men and women. Moreover, 21 percent of men and 23 percent of women described their dysfunction as severe or complete.

“Sexual function is a major determinant of quality of life for both men and women,” Sorensen emphasized. “We recommend that patients having sexual dysfunction issues discuss this with their physicians.

His group also recommends that primary care doctors and trauma surgeons “should be asking patients about their sexual function when they are seen in follow-up after a major injury.”

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