Sound waves could significantly improve sexual activity in men whose severe erectile dysfunction has not responded well to drug treatments, a new study has found.
Researchers employed a technique similar to that used to break up kidney stones to shock the penis into life with low-intensity waves.
So-called ‘extra corporeal shock wave therapy’ has been found to improve blood flow to the heart by inducing blood vessel growth, so experts speculated that such waves might also improve circulation to the penis.
Nearly 30 per cent of patients achieved normal sexual function and no longer required medication two months after treatment.
But critics say you ‘might as well hit your penis with a hammer’ because such technology is designed to be destructive.
An earlier study showed shock wave therapy benefited men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction (ED).
But the new study’s findings suggest the therapy could also be used to treat ED patients who don’t respond well to conventional treatment.
However, the study was small, involving only 29 men, and the results may have been due to a placebo effect, so more work is needed to validate the findings, the researchers said.
Participants filled out a questionnaire to assess their sexual function.
Scores ranged from six to 30 – with ratings lower than 10 indicating severe ED and those from 26 to 30 indicating normal erectile function.
The men, whose average age was 61, were given 300 shocks over a period of three minutes on five points along the shaft of the penis during each session.
There were two sessions per week for three weeks, then three weeks off, and then another three-week treatment period. No men reported pain or adverse side-effects during treatment.
Participants began taking ED drugs one month after the last treatment.
The average score at the beginning of the study was 8.8. Two months after the treatment stopped, the average increased 10 points.
For many men, this means the difference between being able and being unable to have sex said study researcher Ilan Gruenwald, associate director of the neuro-urology unit at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel.
Eight men achieved normal sexual function.
On average, men started to see a benefit three weeks after treatment.
Dr Andrew Kramer, a urologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, who was not involved in the study, said the results were counter-intuitive given that sound waves used in kidney stone treatments are designed to be destructive.
‘It’s like saying, take your penis and hit it with a hammer a couple of times,’ Kramer said.
The researchers acknowledged their work is preliminary, but, given their results, they said they hope others in their field remain open-minded about the therapy.
The study was published online October 18 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.