In the study involving a total of 10,122 patients, 3,087 of them who were treated for trauma had sexual dysfunction.
"The prevalence of sexual dysfunction in this study was more common than we expected it to be," said Dr Mathew D. Sorensen, a resident in urology at the University of Washington, Seattle.
"Overall, the sexual dysfunction rate in this study is about double what it is in studies of healthy patients. And, for patients under the age of 50 years, the rate is about triple.
"In fact, we found that a moderate to severe traumatic injury imparts a risk of sexual dysfunction above and beyond the risk that may be imparted by known risk factors for sexual dysfunction, such as increasing age, diabetes, and lower socioeconomic status," he added.
The researchers also found that the prevalence of sexual dysfunction was similar for both sexes, with 21 percent of men and 23 percent of women reporting severe or complete sexual dysfunction.
"Unlike other studies that have shown an increased risk of sexual dysfunction after specific injuries involving parts of the body that are involved in sexual function, such as the pelvis and spine or genitalia, it appears from our study that just the general occurrence of a traumatic event may result in sexual dysfunction," said Sorensen.
"If we can identify what it is about patients who get hurt severely that puts them at high risk for sexual dysfunction, then we may be able to intervene earlier in their hospital course.
"If depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are important contributors to sexual dysfunction, it may be possible to reverse sexual dysfunction by treating these conditions. Alternatively, it may be possible to make depression or PTSD less severe by treating sexual dysfunction," he added.
The study was presented at the 2008 Clinical Congress of the American College of Surgeons.