IMPOTENCE in some men can be treated successfully with the male equivalent of pelvic floor exercises, doctors in Belgium have found. The exercises, more commonly used for stress incontinence in women, are an effective alternative to surgery on the penis, they report in the British Journal of Urology.

A 12-month study involving 150 men with 'erectile dysfunction' caused by 'venous leakage' - a defect in the mechanism that causes the penis to become engorged with blood - found that regular pelvic floor exercises supervised by a trained physiotherapist resulted in a significant improvement in the function of the perineal muscles; this helped penile rigidity.

Most patients showed some improvement and 42 per cent were cured of impotence, the doctors, from Sint-Pieter Hospital, Brussels, found. They said that in up to 63 per cent of cases of venous leakage, surgery could be avoided by a supervised exercise programme.

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