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What Are the Uses of a Papaverine Injection?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A papaverine injection can be used to treat smooth muscle spasms and in the off-label management of erectile dysfunction. This medication forces smooth muscles to relax, which can release a spasm as well as dilating blood vessels to improve the flow of blood. In addition to being available in injection form, it is sold as oral tablets for patients to take as part of treatment for muscle spasms and blood vessel constriction.

In the case of smooth muscle spasms, a papaverine injection may be recommended for a patient experiencing acute myocardial infarction or other clinical emergencies. It is also sometimes used in surgical procedures, where the surgeon can introduce small amounts of the medication by injection or in the form of a wash solution. For patients with erectile dysfunction, the medication is injected directly into the penis shortly before intercourse to promote blood flow and make it easier to maintain an erection.

Before a medical practitioner will recommend a papaverine injection, the patient’s history may be reviewed for contraindications. A history of bad reactions to this medication mean it should not be used in the future, and it may be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions. The dose also needs to be carefully calculated to confirm it is correct for a given need. In surgery, pre filled syringes may be prepared for use if a need for the medication is anticipated, and the surgeon checks them before the procedure to prevent medication errors.

Some potential complications of a papaverine injection can include bleeding and bruising at the injection site, as well as damage to the liver if the medication enters the bloodstream too quickly. It is designed for injection into the muscle, where it can circulate slowly into an area, rather than intravenous administration. Careful placement of the needle can reduce the risk that a large bolus ends up in the patient’s blood. Patients may also develop lumps if the injection ends up in the subcutaneous space rather than inside the muscle.

Patients with erectile dysfunction are at risk of priapism with a papaverine injection. This involves an erection lasting more than four hours, and can be painful for the patient. People who experience this side effect should seek medical treatment promptly to avoid prolonged discomfort and potential damage to the tissues involved. While it may be embarrassing, medical providers are trained to handle it respectfully and prefer to see patients sooner rather than later.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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