Effect of diabetes upon penile sympathetic nerves in impotent patients

Arnold Melman, David P. Henry, David L. Felten, Brian O’Connor

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38 Scopus citations


Samples of erectile tissue taken from the corpora cavernosa of 16 male diabetic patients suffering from impotence were studied. The content of norepinephrine, which reflects sympathetic nerve activity of that tissue, was significantly lower in insulin-dependent patients 104.2 ± 24.8 (SE) pg/mg wet weight (P<.001) and diet-controlled patients 483.7 ± 103.7 (P<.01) than the normal men (881.7 ± 62.0). Myelinated and unmyelinated nerve fibers were observed intact and unaltered in each group of patients. The results indicated that normally a dense adrenergic innervation of human erectile tissue is present, but that a reduction occurs in norepinephrine content in diabetic patients with impotence. It appears, however, that the anatomic integrity of the sympathetic nerves is intact. The presence of intact nerve fibers along with a diminished content of neurotransmitter suggests the possibility of pharmacologic treatment of impotence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-317
Number of pages11
JournalSouthern Medical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1980
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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