Erectile Dysfunction, Penile Atherosclerosis, and Coronary Artery Vasculopathy in Heart Transplant Recipients


Corresponding Author: Nicola Caretta, PhD, Department of Molecular Medicine, Centre for Human Reproduction Pathology, University of Padova, Via Giustiniani 2 c/o “Palafellin”, 35121 Padova, Italy. Tel: +39 049-8212639; Fax: +39 049-8218520; E-mail:



Vascular erectile dysfunction (ED) is the expression of a systemic vascular disease and in particular of endothelial dysfunction. Dysfunctional endothelium plays also a significant role in the onset and progression of coronary artery vasculopathy (CAV).


This pilot study was designed to evaluate the prevalence and pathogenesis of ED and its correlation with CAV in heart transplanted male.


A total of 77 male heart transplanted patients (HTx) evaluated in our center (mean age 61.6 + 10.6 years) were enrolled in the study.

Main Outcome Measures

All subjects underwent accurate medical history collection, including lifestyle (cigarette smoking, dietary and sedentary habits, drug intake, and erectile function before cardiac transplantation), physical examination (body mass index and arterial pressure), biochemical blood tests (fasting glucose, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides), and hormones (prolactin, luteinizing hormone and total testosterone). Furthermore, they were studied with penile, carotid, femoral echo-color Doppler ultrasonography and coronary angiogram.


Incidence of ED was 24% before HTx and increased up to 65% after. Postischemic cardiomiopathy was an indication to HTx in ED group more frequently than in patients without ED (No-ED group) (45.1% vs. 20%). ED patients showed a lower peak systolic velocity, a higher cavernosal intima-media thickness (IMT), a higher prevalence of cavernosal plaques (26.7% vs. 5.2%, P < 0.05), peripheral vascular disease (60.87% vs. 26.1%, P < 0.05) and CAV (45.8% vs. 25.8%, P < 0.05) with respect to No-ED patients. Coronary flow reserve was significantly reduced in ED vs. No-ED patients (2.43 + 0.7 vs. 2.9 + 0.8, P < 0.04). Finally, cavernous plaque and testosterone plasma levels were statistically associated with CAV.


We showed that ED is a frequent disease in HTx patients, more common when the original pathology is postischemic cardiomiopathy and associated with higher prevalence of cavernous plaques and CAV. Its evaluation should be integral to an HTx rehab program. Caretta N, Feltrin G, Tarantini G, D'Agostino C, Tona F, Schipilliti M, Selice R, Minicuci N, Gerosa G, and Foresta C. Erectile dysfunction, penile atherosclerosis, and coronary artery vasculopathy in heart transplant recipients. J Sex Med 2013;10:2295–2302.