A vacuum constriction device (VCD) is an external pump with a band on it
that a man with erectile dysfunction can use to get and maintain an
The VCD consists of an acrylic cylinder with a pump that may be attached
directly to the end of the penis. A constriction ring or band is placed on the
cylinder at the other end, which is applied to the body. The cylinder and pump
are used to create a vacuum to help the penis become erect; the band or
constriction ring is used to help maintain the erection.
How Do Vacuum Constriction Devices Work?
To use a vacuum constriction device:
- Place the pump, which can be pumped by hand or run on batteries, over the penis.
- Pump the air out of the cylinder so that a vacuum is created. The vacuum draws blood into the shaft of the penis and causes it to swell and become erect.
- Once the penis is erect, with the help of lubricant, slide the retaining band down onto the lower end of the penis.
- Remove the pump after releasing the vacuum.
Intercourse can be attempted with the constriction band in place to help
maintain the erection. The band can be left on safely for up to 30 minutes to
allow for successful intercourse.
Be sure that devices brought without a prescription contains a "quick release" feature, as there have been reports of penile injuries due to devices that did not release its vacuum on-demand or released it too slowly.
How Well Do Vacuum Constriction Devices Work?
Studies suggest that about 50%-80% of men are satisfied with the results of
VCDs. As with any other method of treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED),
satisfaction rates may decrease with time.
Who Should Consider Using a Vacuum Constriction
Vacuum constriction devices are safe and can be used by patients with ED
caused by many conditions, including:
Vacuum constriction devices should not be used by men who may have a
significant congenital bleeding disorder or a disorder that predisposes them to
a condition called priapism (a prolonged, sometime painful erection lasting
over several hours). Examples include sickle cell anemia, some forms of
leukemia, and other blood conditions.
Quick GuideErectile Dysfunction (ED) Causes and Treatment
Risks of Vacuum Constriction Devices
The vacuum pump. This is the classic of the penis enlargement device genre.
You stick your penis into a cylinder attached to a pump that sucks out the air.
The resulting vacuum draws extra blood into your penis, making it erect and a
little bigger. You then clamp off the penis with a tight ring -- like a
tourniquet -- to keep the blood from escaping back into your body.
Penis pumps do
have a real medical use: They help men with erectile dysfunction. But the pump
has no lasting effect on the size of your penis. You will deflate to normal size
once you remove the ring.
Risks include temporary impotence, blisters, bruises,
ruptured blood vessels, and discolored and thickened skin. The clamping should
not be done for longer than 20 to 30 minutes at most since it will eventually
cause tissue damage.
What Are the Side Effects of Vacuum Constriction Devices?
An erection obtained by the vacuum constriction device is not the same as an
erection achieved naturally. The penis tends to be purplish in color and can be
cold or numb. Other side effects can include:
- A black and blue mark or small area of
bruising on the shaft of the penis.
This is usually painless and generally will resolve in a few days.
- Decrease in the force of the ejaculation. The constriction band traps the
ejaculate or semen at the time of orgasm. This is not dangerous and usually
does not cause pain. The semen will usually dribble out once the constriction
band is removed. Generally, this does not interfere with the pleasure of a
climax or orgasm.
How Much Does a Vacuum Constriction Device Cost?
Vacuum constriction devices vary in cost from $300 to $500, depending on the
brand and type. The battery-powered versions tend to be more expensive, but
also tend to work a little more quickly. Battery-powered devices are especially
helpful for men who do not have good hand strength or coordination or who have
There are several devices currently on the market that work effectively.
Some of these devices can be obtained without a prescription.
Does Insurance Cover Vacuum Constriction Devices?
Most insurance policies, including Medicare, cover at least part of the
costs of a vacuum constriction device, especially if a medical cause for ED has
been documented. Medicaid, however, does not cover the device except under extreme circumstances in certain states.
WebMD Medical Reference
SOURCE: American Urological Association.
Reviewed by Charles E. Jennings, MD on February 23, 2011
Edited by John M. Baird, MD, FACS