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Erectile dysfunction health centre

Vacuum pumps

BMJ Group Medical Reference


This information is for men who have erection problems. It tells you about vacuum pumps, a treatment used for erection problems. It is based on the best and most up-to-date research.

Do they work?

Probably. Many men use vacuum pumps to help them get erections. But there aren't many good research studies to say how well they work.

Vacuum pumps may work as well as alprostadil injections. But they may not be as good as alprostradil at helping men ejaculate (climax and produce semen from their penis) or have satisfying sex.

What are they?

To use a vacuum pump, you first put a plastic tube over your penis. You push the tube against your groin at the base of your penis so that no air can get in. The other end of the tube is joined to a pump. When you work the pump, it sucks air out of the tube. This suction gives you an erection.

When you get an erection, you put a special elastic band around the base of your penis. This band keeps your penis firm while you have sex.

If you want to try a vacuum pump, talk to your doctor first.

How can they help?

We're not sure whether vacuum pumps can help, because they haven't been well studied.

There's some evidence that they can work as well as alprostadil injections to help you get an erection. [114]

How do they work?

The sucking action of the pump makes blood flow into the spongy spaces inside your penis, which gives you an erection.

You need to put an elastic band around the base of your penis to keep the blood in your penis while you have sex.

Can they be harmful?

There hasn't been good research on the side effects of vacuum pumps. But we know that some people get: [115]

  • Pain in their penis

  • Bruising on their penis

  • Damage to the skin of their penis.

In one study, 1 in 6 men stopped using the pump or used it less often because of the side effects. [114]

If you leave the elastic band on too long, you may get more serious side effects. You may damage your penis if you leave the band on for longer than 30 minutes. [115]

How good is the research on vacuum pumps?

We didn't find any good-quality studies on vacuum pumps.

We did find one small study of 50 men that compared vacuum pumps with alprostadil injections, which are another treatment for erection problems. [114] The study found that the two treatments were equally as good at helping men get erections, but men who took alprostadil injections were more likely to reach orgasm during sex.

We also found a study that looked at whether it was helpful to give a vacuum pump to couples who were having psychosexual counselling for erection problems. Forty-five couples took part in the study. Using a vacuum pump and having counselling didn't help any more than having counselling on its own. [116]



When a man ejaculates, his penis suddenly releases semen, the white or transparent fluid that carries sperm.

For more terms related to Erection problems


For references related to Erection problems click here.
Last Updated: August 15, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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