Viagra, the First Oral Treatment for Impotence
Y. Assouline-Dayan, Y. Levi, Y. Shoenfeld
Medical Dept B, Chaim Sheba Medical Center and Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
Impotence, a common problem especially among older men, can now be treated with Viagra, This oral pill, unlike previous approved treatments mostly involving local injections, does not directly cause penile erection, but increases response to sexual stimulation. It acts by enhancing the relaxant effects of nitric acid on smooth muscle, and thus increases blood flow to certain areas of the penis, leading to erection. It has been evaluated in many randomized trials and in all was more successful in inducing erection than placebos. The most common side-effects include headache, flushing and indigestion, but there have also been reports of fatalities.
We describe a 75-year-old man who had an acute myocardial infraction in the past and who had maturity-onset diabetes and hypertension. In the week prior to admission he had a cardiac scan following a few weeks of exacerbation of anginal pain for which he had been taking nitrites. He took a Viagra pill without prescription or medical advice and 2 hours later, during intercourse with his wife, developed audible respiratory distress and lost consciousness. His wife started cardiac massage but not mouth-to-mouth breathing. The emergency team found ventricular fibrillation and gave 5 electrical shocks and amines and atropine. He remained unconscious, but his pulse returned and he was hospitalized. He then had several generalized convulsions treated with IV valium. 20 minutes after admission there was asystole and all attempts at resuscitation failed.
Cardiovascular status must be considered prior to prescribing Viagra, and the associated risk evaluated.