An Israeli researcher finds that the device that blasts kidney stones with shockwaves appears to have a restorative effect on the blood vessels of the penis.
For the 35 million men in America alone who suffer from impotence, the issue of erectile dysfunction is no joke. Wonder drugs like Viagra and Cialis have rejuvenated many a couple’s sex life, but not without the associated risks of heart attack and adversely affected vision.
New research from Israel presented to the European Society of Sexual Medicine in Lyon, France in November suggests that a “shocking” new therapy might work to reinvigorate the male sexual organ in a very safe and effective manner. So far, the benefits of the treatment appear to be long lasting.
Dr. Yoram Vardi, head of the Neuro-Urology Department at the Ramban Medical center in Haifa, Israel, has found that the same device that uses shockwaves to blast kidney stones appears to have a restorative effect on the blood vessels of the penis.
In an initial study of 20 middle-aged men with erectile dysfunction – an inability to maintain an erection – for more than three years, researchers conducted a series of treatments that comprised three weeks of shockwave therapy administered in two 20-minute sessions each week.
No pain, all gain
The patients were allowed to rest for three weeks and then an additional course of low-dose shockwave treatments, with about 100 bars of pressure per shockwave, was administered over another three-week period, using a device that resembles a computer mouse.
Vardi found mostly consistent results in all 15 of the 20 men who benefited from the therapy. All the men noted a return of erectile functioning around the seven-week mark, and a six-month follow-up found that for 13 of the men, the effects were long lasting, while two will require additional treatments.
“There was no pain or additional side effects within six months,” Vardi tells ISRAEL21c. “There was an improvement [in erectile function]. A huge improvement.”
How does he explain it? “We feel the effect is something biological,” says Vardi, suggesting that the treatment encourages blood vessel growth, as found in animal studies. The research team is now in the midst of a new series of tests, which will measure any placebo effect.
“We have done 20 patients more and after a few months the results are approximately the same,” the doctor relates, stressing that such a treatment wouldn’t work on men with muscle or nerve problems, but on those whose erectile problem stems from reduced blood flow.
Shock waves grow blood vessels, treat pain
While commercializing the procedure could be a possibility, Vardi wants to concentrate on the science. But as a researcher and physician with decades of experience, he states, “… I have no question that there is something real in [this new therapy] and that it is important.”
This is the first time that low-dose shockwaves have been used to treat erectile dysfunction, although some research indicates that the treatment could also be useful for growing new blood vessels for the heart. The device is used with higher levels of shockwaves to treat shoulder pain in orthopedics patients. The idea of using sound waves to treat erectile dysfunction came to Vardi when he learned that shockwaves were used to treat men with a curvature of the penis known as Peyronie’s disease.
It’s hard to say when a device might be available to the general public, says Vardi, adding that, “First of all we want to test it more and understand better how effective it can be and how long the [effects of] treatment lasts.” Also, while many men currently self-medicate their erectile disorder, the new shock treatment would require medical consultation and would have to be administered by a physician.
Vardi hopes that in the long run the shockwave therapy could be used to diagnose heart disease at an early stage. Since erectile dysfunction appears in the early stages of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, a flaccid penis could be a red flag indicating a more grave life-threatening disorder.