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Men’s beliefs about treatment for erectile dysfunction—what influences treatment use? A systematic review


Successful treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED) is associated with improvements in quality of life; however, treatment utilisation is sub-optimal. The aim of this systematic review was to identify the rates of ED treatment utilisation and the barriers and enablers men experience when using treatment. We searched: MEDLINE®, Embase, the Cochrane library; AMED; HMIC; HTA; CINAHL; PsychARTICLES; PsychINFO up to August 2018. Data on rates of treatment utilisation and barriers and enablers of utilisation were extracted and summarised. Fifty studies were included. Discontinuation rates ranged from 4.4 to 76% for phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors, 18.6 to 79.9% for intracavernosal injections, and 32 to 69.2% for urethral suppositories. In relation to those with a penile prosthesis, 30% discontinued having sex due to, e.g. device complications, lack of partner or a loss of sexual interest. Most research included in the current review examined barriers to treatment utilisation and therefore focussed on reasons for discontinuing treatment. However, a small number explored factors that men found helpful with regards to treatment utilisation. The most prevalent barriers to utilisation were treatment ineffectiveness, side effects, the quality of men’s intimate relationships and treatment costs. With regards to treatment enablers, the most salient finding was that men who reported side effects to a healthcare professionals (HCPs) were significantly less likely to discontinue treatment. There were limitations in methodology in that the studies did not use validated measures of treatment utilisation or barriers and enablers and no study used psychological theory to inform the examination of factors that influenced treatment utilisation. This review identifies a number of influential factors relating to ED treatment utilisation and highlights the importance of men’s beliefs with regards to ED and its treatment. Beliefs are potentially modifiable and therefore the findings of this review highlight important considerations for HCPs with regards to supporting men to make better use of treatment.

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Fig. 1: PRISMA flow diagram for systematic review of the barriers and enablers to treatment for erectile dysfucntion (ED).


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Williams, P., McBain, H., Amirova, A. et al. Men’s beliefs about treatment for erectile dysfunction—what influences treatment use? A systematic review. Int J Impot Res 33, 16–42 (2021).

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