What is Low-Intensity Shockwave Therapy?
Low-Intensity Shockwave Therapy (LiSWT) is proven to help those suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED).
Shockwave therapy has been around for many years in the treatment of several conditions. High-intensity shockwave therapy was originally used in urology for the treatment of kidney stones. At more moderate intensity, orthopedic surgeons use shockwaves for the treatment of inflammation in joints and muscles.
Recently, the use of shockwave therapy at a lower intensity has been clinically proven in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
How does it work?
During a treatment session, the provider holds a handheld probe to the penis that provides targeted sound waves to the erectile tissue of the penis. Contrary to the name, no shock or electricity is generated, and the procedure is pain-free. These sound waves stimulate a process called angiogenesis – the process of blood vessel creation. This results in improved blood flow to the penis, which improves erections.
LiSWT improves erectile function through the generation of focused shockwaves. This is different than “radial wave therapy” or “GAINSwave” provided by alternative men’s health clinics. Radial wave therapy is often painful and has not been shown to improve erectile function in clinical trials.
Who can benefit from LiSWT?
The treatment works best for men with mild to moderate ED. This includes men with some erectile function without ED medications, those with a good response to ED medication, men with side effects to ED medication, or those seeking an improved response to ED medications.
Not all men are candidates for LiSWT. Benefits decrease in men with ED after prostate surgery, radiation for prostate cancer, and neurologic causes of ED such as spinal cord injury. It is unclear if men with diabetes benefit from LiSWT.
Are there risks with shockwave therapy?
One of the benefits of LiSWT is that it is very safe with virtually no risks. In all the clinical trials, no adverse events were reported. Some men have reported mild discomfort in the penis after a treatment session. This usually resolves shortly and can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. In rare cases, men have reported mild bruising of the penis.
How much does shockwave therapy cost?
Shockwave therapy is a fairly new treatment option for ED, and therefore, it’s not covered by insurance.
A course of treatment at UCI involves weekly treatments for 6 weeks for a total of 6 treatments. The out-of-pocket treatment totals $1,800. Your provider will discuss these costs and alternative options when discussing the best treatment option for your ED.
Costs may vary in other regions and practices.
How do I know if I will respond and how long will it last?
In appropriately selected patients, response rates are up to 70%. Sometimes this effect isn’t noticed until after the treatment course is complete. Patients report improvement in overall erection hardness, frequency, and confidence. In clinical trials, an improvement in the Sexual Health Inventory for Men (SHIM) score was sustained for at least 6 months.*
*Clinical trials did not follow up after the 6-month period, but reportedly 50% of men who respond will have sustained response for at least 2 years.
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