Psychotropic drug-induced priapism: Incidence, mechanism and management

David M. Weiner, Franklin C. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Several psychotropic medications have been implicated in causing priapism. This adverse effect occurs infrequently and, although it can occur in females (i.e. clitoral priapism), has a male predominance. Psychotropic drug-induced priapism does not appear to be dose-dependent nor does it appear to correlate with the duration of treatment. To date, the most widely accepted mechanism of this effect involves a relative decrease in local sympathetic tone with respect to the local parasympathetic tone. The significance of priapism lies in the potential for the development of damaging ischaemic penile fibrosis and subsequent impotence. Prompt treatment. within 4 to 6 hours of onset, has been demonstrated to reduce morbidity and decrease the need for surgical intervention. Treatment recommendations for psychotropic drug-induced priapism include penile aspiration, irrigation, instillation of vasoactive agents and, if necessary, shunting procedures. Perhaps the most important consideration is patient education with respect to this potentially damaging adverse drug effect. Patients should seek prompt medical attention if a prolonged erection occurs. An inquiry should be made to determine if the patient has a history of prolonged erections, as this finding is present in approximately 50% of subsequent cases of psychotropic drug-induced priapism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-379
Number of pages9
JournalCNS Drugs
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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