Premature ejaculation

A blast of heat could help men last longer during sex by halting over-excited pleasure signals in the brain

By Pat Hagan
Last updated at 9:51 AM on 15th March 2011

Premature ejaculation can put a strain on relationships

Premature ejaculation can put a strain on relationships

A new 20-minute treatment that involves heating up nerves in the pelvis could treat premature ejaculation.

The new therapy, which is undergoing trials in the U.S., works by deactivating the nerve that transmits pleasure signals to the brain during sex.

Patients are given a local anaesthetic and a small, hollow needle is inserted a couple of inches through the skin into the pelvis, until it reaches the dorsal penile nerve - the nerve that controls sensitivity  and connects with the spinal cord to relay signals to the brain.

A tiny electrode, attached to a battery, is fed through the needle until it reaches this nerve. At the press of a button, a low-level current is passed through the electrode to heat the nerve up to the point where it is partially destroyed.

This reduces its ability to transmit messages to the brain during sex, allowing men to last longer in the bedroom.

The aim of the treatment, being trialled on 22 men at University Hospitals Case Medical Centre, in Cleveland, Ohio, is to cause just enough damage to the nerve to delay ejaculation, without completely destroying its ability to ferry pleasure signals.

But it is likely to need repeating after a few months as the nerve has the capacity to repair damage done by the heat treatment.

One in four men in the UK suffers with premature ejaculation. Those affected last an average of just 1.8 minutes during sex, compared with 7.3 minutes in those not affected.

The exact cause remains a mystery. Some research suggests it may have a genetic element, but it is also linked to psychological issues.

Treatments usually involve relaxation techniques, although doctors sometimes prescribe anti-depressants to tackle anxiety.

The exact cause of premature ejaculation is not known but could be psychological

The exact cause of premature ejaculation is not known but could be psychological

The new technique - known as radiofrequency nerve ablation - is already widely used in the treatment of severe back pain (here it heats up nerves in the spine).

Now the U.S. team behind the latest trial hope they can enjoy similar success with premature ejaculation.

They are enrolling 22 patients whose love lives have been wrecked by the problem to see if the heat treatment can help.

Lead researcher Dr David Prologo said: ‘We’re very excited that this is the first study of its kind in the world. The nerve recovers over time from the procedure, so the effects are not permanent.’

Dr John Dean, former president of the International Society for Sexual Medicine, welcomed the trial. But he stressed previous attempts to banish premature ejaculation by surgically severing the dorsal penile nerve altogether had caused controversy.

‘The trouble was, men lost a lot of their sexual sensation and pleasure and many were not able to get erections at all.

‘This new treatment is less drastic because it is not killing off the nerve completely but heating it to reduce the sensation.

‘The question is whether they can do enough damage for it to work without causing any permanent problems.’