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Atherosclerosis. 2009 Apr;203(2):620-5. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2008.07.034. Epub 2008 Aug 7.

Small-vessel lower extremity arterial disease and erectile dysfunction: The Rancho Bernardo study.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, San Diego Medical Center, United States.



Although erectile dysfunction (ED) has been associated with heart disease risk factors and large-vessel lower extremity arterial disease (LEAD), no community-based studies have reported the association between ED and small-vessel LEAD, despite the similar size of the arteries affected. We examined whether small-vessel LEAD is associated with ED, and whether this association is independent of cardiovascular risk factors and medications.


Community-dwelling men, average age 71, completed the International Index of Erectile Function-5 questionnaire and had measurements recorded of toe-brachial index (TBI), a measure of small-vessel LEAD. TBI, 12 cardiovascular risk factors, and medications were used as categorical predictors in age-adjusted bivariate analyses, and as continuous covariates in multivariable linear regression analyses, to determine their independent association with severity of ED. In the age-adjusted categorical model, the level of TBI (low, medium, high) was associated with the severity of ED (beta=0.364; 95% CI: 0.102, 0.625). In the final multivariable linear regression model, which controlled for age and systolic blood pressure, lower TBI (i.e., more severe small-vessel LEAD) was significantly and independently associated with more severe ED (beta=0.422; 95% CI: 0.019, 0.826).


The severity of small-vessel LEAD is significantly and independently associated with the severity of ED. The mechanism for this association remains to be determined, but these data are compatible with the hypothesis that concurrent ED and small-vessel LEAD signify a diffuse microvascular process involving multiple small-vessel arterial beds.

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