Does Anesthesia Cause Erections during Urologic Surgery?

Does Anesthesia Cause Erections During Urologic Surgery?

A study from West China Hospital looks at the possible link between preoperative anesthesia and erection in males during urologic surgery.

When it comes to urologic surgeries and procedures such as a cystoscopy, TURP or ureteroscopy, the choice of anesthesia administered depends on the patient’s history and status. General anesthesia is very effective when used with an IV or inhaled anesthetics (other forms of anesthesia used for urologic surgeries include spinal and regional anesthesia). It is a common occurrence for male patients to experience an erection in the middle of a urologic surgery. This phenomenon can either result in a delay or cancellation of the procedure. In the past, this was considered as a normal happening and nothing more.

However, researchers have recently found out that it is possible for certain anesthetic properties to be the root cause of the erections. The researchers from the West China Hospital in Chengdu conducted a in which they compared the erection rates from an estimated 300 male patients. The subjects received propofol, isoflurane or sevoflurane as the general anesthetic for their elective urologic surgery.

of the men had an erection while in the operating room and even then, the number breakdown was not evenly distributed. From the group of men who received isoflurane, only one man had an erection. From the group that received sevoflurane, four had an erection. Finally, in the group that was administered propofol, 11 patients developed an erection.

The findings are not merely statistics of which anesthetic causes the most erections. The study suggests that by administering isoflurane at an end-tidal concentration of 1-1.3, the penile tumescence (the engorgement and swelling of the penis caused by blood congestion) is rapidly reversed because of the minimal alveolar concentration. On a slightly related note, this finding may apply as a cure for late-night headaches as well.

These findings and the rest of the study’s results were shown at the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ annual meeting this year. With this, we may be another step closer to modifying certain concentrations and types of anesthesia chosen for urologic procedures and surgeries; the larger implication being possibly reducing the instances of cancelled or delayed elective surgeries.