Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) have ongoing problems getting and keeping an erection that is firm enough for intercourse. A vacuum erectile device (VED) is used to help men with erectile dysfunction get and maintain an erection. These devices are also called vacuum constriction devices or penis pumps.
A VED consists of the following:
- A plastic tube
- A mechanical, battery-operated, or electric pump
- A constriction band, which fits on one end of the tube
The tube is placed over the penis, and the pump is used to create a vacuum, which draws blood into the penis so that it becomes erect. The band is placed at the base of the penis to help maintain the erection.
How to Use a Vacuum Erection Device
VEDs may vary somewhat depending on the manufacturer. Be sure to read the instructions before using. Below are general instructions for how to use the device.
- Apply a small amount of water-soluble personal lubricant (such as K-Y Jelly) to the penis and around the opening at the base of the VED. Never use petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) as this could damage the device.
- Place the tube over the entire penis.
- Use the pump to pull the air out of the tube. This will create a vacuum, and blood will fill the penis, causing an erection. Only use the amount of vacuum pressure needed for an erection. Too much pressure can cause injury to the penis.
- Slide the band off the end of the tube and onto the base of the penis. This will maintain the erection. Then remove the tube.
- The band should remain in place for no more than 30 minutes. Keeping it on for longer could seriously bruise or damage the penis.
- Once you remove the band, the penis will return to its normal size. You may want to apply more water-soluble lubricant to make it easier to remove the band.
- Allow 60 minutes between uses of the VED.
It may take a few weeks to gain the proper technique when using the device. The device may come with constriction bands in different sizes. Use the largest possible to maintain an erection.
Despite claims by some manufacturers, using a VED will not increase the size of the penis over time. It may preserve penile length when used for treatment of ED caused by prostate surgery.
VED Side Effects
You may notice some side effects from using the VED.
- Once the band is applied, the penis may be slightly blue-purple in color and cool to the touch. To warm the penis before having sex, you can apply a warm compress. These effects will disappear once the band is removed.
- You may not ejaculate at climax. This is because the band prevents semen from coming through. This is harmless. Once the band is removed semen may drip from the penis. Note that the band cannot be used as a form of birth control.
- You may notice small red spots below the skin (petechiae) or minor bruising of the penis. You may be using too much pressure or the band may be too tight. Stop using the device until these effects have gone away (5 days or so).
When to use VEDs
Vacuum erection devices can be used by men with ED due to:
- Diseases that can cause blood flow or nerve problems, including diabetes, heart disease, or nervous system disorders
- Medicines such as antidepressants or blood pressure medicines that can cause ED
- Physical causes such as nerve damage from prostate surgery or spinal cord injury
- Emotional or relationship problems such as depression, anxiety, or poor communication with partner
While VEDs are generally safe, talk with your doctor before using a VED if you:
- Have a bleeding disorder, such as sickle cell disease
- Have any condition that may cause priapism (a painful erection that won't go away)
- Are taking blood thinning medicines
When to Call the Doctor
You should call your health care provider if you notice:
- Pain during or after using the device
- Serious bruising or blood blisters
- Decreased sensation in the penis
Vacuum constriction devices for erectile dysfunction; VCD; Penis pump; Erection problems - penis pump; Erectile dysfunction - vacuum constriction devices; Vacuum erection devices
Burnett AL, Nehra A, Breau RH, et al, eds. Erectile Dysfunction: AUA Guideline. J Urol. 2018 Sep;200(3):633-641. Epub 2018 May 7. PMID: 29746858 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29746858/.
Holman JR. Vacuum devices for erectile dysfunction. In: Fowler GC, ed. Pfenninger and Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 108.
Burnett AL, Ramasamy R. Evaluation and management of erectile dysfunction. In: Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 69.
Review Date 1/17/2022
Updated by: Kelly L. Stratton, MD, FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.