There are many causes for erectile dysfunction (ED). Some have to do with lack of blood flow, others with neurological and psychological issues. For some men, though, the issue is venous leaks, otherwise known as veno-occlusive dysfunction or caverno-venous leaks in medical circles.
For those with venous leaks, blood flows into the erectile tissue of the penis, but dysfunction in the venous system and connective tissues of the penis is unable to maintain the pressure.
Understanding the anatomy of an erection can be helpful before looking at therapeutic options for men with venous leaks.
How an Erection Works
An erection depends on three systems working together – arterial inflow, venous outflow, and a fibrous connective tissue capsule called the tunica albuginea. If all other systems are functioning well (neurological and psychological), a healthy erection is really just dependent on the relationship between blood flow and the tunica albuginea.
When the penis is flaccid, the tunica albuginea is soft, like a deflated balloon or a bunched up sock. As blood flows into the erectile tissue running along the shaft of the penis, the corpora cavernosa, it puts pressure on the fibrous tunica albuginea to expand. This squeezes off the veins which drain the cavernosa, which supports the buildup of pressure in the cavernosa. The net effect is a firm and full erection.
In venous leaks, the integrity of the tunica albuginea is compromised. The blood which flows into the cavernosal tissue to expand the penis leaks out, which makes getting or maintaining an erection a mechanical challenge.
While some men with venous leaks function better than others, over 80% of men with venous leaks have more than 1 leak site.
Most common causes of venous leaks
- Large venous channels that drain the cavernosal tissue
- Degenerative changes
- Traumatic injury to the tunica albuginea
- Structural or functional changes in the cavernosal tissue
- Acquired venous shuts from other surgical procedures
There are a variety of treatment options for men with venous leaks:
- Sclerotherapy is the most common surgical approach to venous leaks. The procedure depends on the action of a medication to permanently narrow the veins in the penis that are responsible for preserving an erection. A diagnostic test that uses soundwaves to map blood flow to and from the penis highlights which veins need attention before the procedure.
- Penile implants offer a definitive surgical option for men with erectile dysfunction caused by venous leaks. During this procedure, inflatable cylinders or semi-rigid rods are placed in the cavernosal tissue running the length of the penis.
- Radial sound wave therapy (GAINSWave therapy) is a proven treatment option at SocolMD for individuals with known venous leaks who have either failed sclerotherapy or are looking to supplement the results of their procedure. Using pre-treatment and post-treatment penile ultrasounds, radial sound wave therapy has been shown to improve pressures in the penis and promote stronger erections.
Of the options above, only GAINSWave therapy targets the root cause of venous leaks and improves sexual function.
Radial sound wave therapy is also the only non-invasive procedure with no surgical commitments, pain, or down time.
Click here for more information on GAINSWave and treatment options for ED issues.