• Sexual Dysfunction in Spinal Cord Injury;
  • Psychological Distress;
  • Erectile Dysfunction;
  • Functional Independence


Introduction.  The weight of erectile dysfunction (ED) among the various determinants of psychological distress in men with spinal cord injury (SCI) remains to be clarified.

Aim.  The aim of this article was to evaluate psychological distress features in SCI men with or without ED.

Methods.  Forty consecutive patients with neurologically stable SCI were included in the study. Functional independence (FI) was assessed by Barthel Index (BI), which was divided into global score (questions 1–10) and bowel/bladder subscore (questions 5 and 6). Erectile function was evaluated with Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM).

Main Outcome Measures.  Psychological distress was assessed with the Symptom Checklist-90-revised (SCL-90-R), scoring nine primary dimensions and their combination as Global Severity Index, a global index of psychological distress.

Results.  All SCL-90-R scores and the percentage of patients with scores >75th percentile of the entire study population were significantly higher in the group with ED (N = 21) than without ED (N = 19). Most of SCL-90-R subscales were inversely correlated with SHIM score. ED was exhibited by a high proportion (84%) of men with thoracolumbar lesions but by no patients with cervical lesions. Men with cervical lesions exhibited significantly lower SCL-90-R scores than those with thoracolumbar lesions, in spite of lower FI. However, the thoracolumbar group also reported a more severe bowel/bladder dysfunction. At multivariate logistic regression analysis, ED score significantly explained the variance of most of SCL-90-R dimension scores, whereas no association was revealed between global BI and any score of SCL-90-R dimensions. Bowel/bladder BI explained only to a very low extent the variance of depressive symptoms.

Conclusions.  Healthcare providers should be aware of the importance of managing ED in spinal cord-injured men, as it represents a major determinant of their psychological distress, independently of the degree of FI impairment. Barbonetti A, Cavallo F, Felzani G, Francavilla S, and Francavilla F. Erectile dysfunction is the main determinant of psychological distress in men with spinal cord injury. J Sex Med 2012;9:830–836.