Shockwave therapy is a medical treatment that has been around for many years. It is often used as a non-invasive treatment option for kidney stones and orthopedic injuries. Recently, urologists have begun using this therapy to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).
The University of Utah Health offers shockwave therapy as an option for patients suffering from ED. Shockwave therapy is typically recommended for patients who do not respond well to medication or do not want more invasive treatments.
Shockwave therapy for ED is still considered an experimental treatment option. There is some data to support its efficacy, but research is ongoing to determine how well it works long-term and whether it can replace or be offered along with other proven ED treatments.
What is shockwave therapy?
The clinical term for this treatment used by urologists is low-intensity shockwave therapy (Li-SWT). During the treatment, a small wand-like device uses targeted sound waves to stimulate penile tissue and encourage blood flow, which can also speed up the healing process. Low-intensity shockwaves have also been shown to grow new blood vessels and improve blood flow in the penis, which is essential for erections.
Shockwave Therapy vs. Radial Wave Therapy
It’s important to distinguish shockwave therapy from radial wave therapy, which is commonly advertised as a noninvasive treatment for erectile dysfunction available at both medical and non-medical facilities. Here are some key differences:
Data shows it can stimulate blood flow and potentially help grow new blood vessels.
A licensed medical professional with professional training is required to administer this treatment.
It is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in treating erectile dysfunction.
Radial wave therapy
There is no data to support claims that it can help with erectile dysfunction.
It is not regulated by the FDA because it is a Class I medical device.
No medical license or professional training is required to administer this treatment.
Shockwave Therapy Cost
Since shockwave therapy is a fairly new ED treatment that is not covered by insurance plans, your urologist may recommend other ED treatment options first. A shockwave therapy regimen typically includes six separate treatments, but treatment protocols could change as more research becomes available.
The out-of-pocket cost for each treatment is between $400 and $500. Your urologist will discuss these costs and other options with you before deciding the best course for treatment.
Candidates for Shockwave Therapy
This procedure works best for men with mild erectile dysfunction who are:
- not responding to medications adequately,
- not interested in taking medications, or
- interested in trying regenerative therapy to reverse some of the causes of ED.
The procedure has not been well-studied in men with severe ED or other health conditions, such as diabetes, prostate cancer, or heart disease.
Low-Intensity Shockwave Therapy Procedure
This procedure is performed in an exam room and does not require anesthesia. You do not need to prepare anything in advance for your appointment.
During the procedure, your urologist will move a wand-like device around different areas of your penis. Urologists at U of U Health use DUOLITH® devices, which emit gentle pulses that trigger increased blood flow. The entire treatment lasts approximately 15 minutes.
Once the treatment is complete, you will be able to return home. You should be able to safely drive yourself home. If you experience pain, your doctor will recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. Most people can return to normal activity the following day after shockwave therapy, but your urologist will discuss whether you should restrict your activity for longer to recover.
Shockwave Therapy Risks
You may experience some side effects, but they are rare and generally mild. These may include:
- pain at the site during the procedure,
- bleeding or bruising on and around the penis,
- blood in the urine,
- skin infection on the penis,
- painful erection, or
- penile curvature that worsens.
Clinical studies have generally shown shockwave therapy to be effective and safe, but more research is needed to identify potential risks and the best treatment protocols for someone with erectile dysfunction.
How long does shockwave therapy take to work?
Most people who get shockwave therapy for ED will often see benefits within one to three months. The initial results (within the first several weeks) can be dramatic. There is still not enough long-term research and data to say how long the treatment might last, whether the effects of the treatment could wear off, or whether you will need additional treatment at a later time.
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