Viagra and similar drugs work by increasing blood flow to the penis, but men who use them have to plan sex around the drugs, and side effects can include headaches, dizziness, nasal congestion and sudden hearing loss. An alternative, called extra-corporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT), could provide a longer-term solution, according to several studies discussed this month at a meeting of the European Society for Sexual Medicine in Madrid, Spain.
One study of ESWT involved 112 men with erectile dysfunction. Half received five weekly doses of low-intensity sound waves directed at six sites along their penis. The other half received a placebo. At the start of the study, none of the men were able to have penetrative sex without medication. By the end, 57 per cent of the treated men said they were having intercourse, compared with 9 per cent of the men who received the placebo
The treatment seems to increase blood flow to the penis by encouraging the growth of new blood vessels, says Ilan Gruenwald of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel. If this proves true, it suggests the treatment could be long-lasting.
Another study found that ESWT improves erectile function in men who do not respond to traditional drugs. Other small trials have also reported positive results. The treatment is unlikely to cause any harm because the sound waves are of such low energy
Scandinavian Journal of Urology - Can low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy improve erectile dysfunction? A prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study
Objective. The aim of this study was to investigate whether low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy (LI-ESWT) can be used as a treatment for men with erectile dysfunction of organic origin. Materials and methods. This prospective, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study included 112 men unable to have intercourse either with or without medication. Erectile dysfunction was assessed at screening and 5, 12 and 24 weeks after treatment. Assessment was performed by interview and using the Erection Hardness Scale (EHS) and the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF-15) questionnaire. The men were randomly assigned either to LI-ESWT (n = 51, active group) or placebo (n = 54, placebo group). They received five treatments over 5 weeks. Both the participants and the doctors were blinded to the treatment. After 10 weeks, the placebo group received active treatment (active placebo group). Results. Twenty-nine men (57%, active group) were able to obtain an erection after treatment and to have sexual intercourse without the use of medication. In the placebo group, only five men (9%) showed similar results (p = 0.0001). The EHS after 5 weeks showed that men in the active group experienced a significant improvement in their erectile dysfunction, but no significant result was found with the use of the IIEF – Erectile Function domain. Conclusions. This placebo-controlled study over 5 weeks shows that 57% of the men who suffered from erectile dysfunction had an effect from LI-ESWT. After 24 weeks, seven (19%, active group) and nine (23%, active placebo group) men were still able to have intercourse without medication. This study shows a possible cure in some patients, but more research, longer follow-up in the placebo group and an international multicentre randomized study are needed.
SOURCES - New Scientist, Scandinavian Journal of Urology