Chronic Advanced Liver Disease and Impotence: Cause and Effect?

Authors

  • Christine M. Cornely,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261
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  • Robert R. Schade,

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261
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  • David H. Van Thiel,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261
    • David H. Van Thiel, M.D., 1000J Scaife Hall, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261.
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    • Dr. Van Thiel is the recipient of a Career Development Award from NIMH (AA00016).

  • Judith S. Gavaler

    1. Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261
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Abstract

The prevalence of impotence is increased in males who chronically abuse alcohol. Further, impotence may occur in the absence of liver disease in such men. In contrast, no data is available concerning the prevalence of impotence in nonalcoholic men with advanced liver disease. To investigate the relationship between alcohol and impotence in cirrhotic men, a self-administered questionnaire was completed by male alcoholic cirrhotics admitted to the medical service as well as by nonalcoholic cirrhotic liver transplant candidates admitted to the medical and surgical services of Presbyterian-University Hospital. Each participant was asked whether or not he had experienced impotence and if so, to report the frequency and duration of his impotence. The frequency of impotence was recorded on a weighted scale with four gradations: 4 = always; 3 = usually; 2 = sometimes; 1 = seldom. In addition, measures of hepatic injury and function as well as measures of the functional integrity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis for each subject evaluated were obtained. Fourteen of the 20 alcoholics with cirrhosis and 10 of the 40 nonalcoholic liver transplant candidates with cirrhosis reported a history of impotence. The association between impotence and alcohol abuse was significant. The impotence index developed by multiplying the frequency by the duration of impotency for each individual demonstrated a more severe degree of impotence in the alcoholics as compared to the nonalcoholics (p < 0.01). The alcoholics also had lower plasma levels of testosterone and greater plasma levels of gonadotropins as compared to the nonalcoholics. In contrast, the bilirubin levels were lower (p < 0.01) while the prothrombin time and albumin levels were arithmetically greater in the alcoholics than in the nonalcoholics studied. Based on these results, we conclude that: (i) alcoholic males have an increased prevalence of impotence compared to men with nonalcoholic liver disease; and (ii) the degree and duration of impotence in alcoholic men is greater than that seen in the few nonalcoholic men with advanced liver disease who also complain of impotence.

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