Low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy (LI-ESWT) is currently under investigation regarding its ability to promote neovascularization in different organs.
To evaluate the effect of LI-ESWT on men with erectile dysfunction (ED) who have previously responded to oral phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5-I).
Design, setting, and participants
We screened 20 men with vasculogenic ED who had International Index of Erectile Function ED (IIEF-ED) domain scores between 5–19 (average: 13.5) and abnormal nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) parameters. Shockwave therapy comprised two treatment sessions per week for 3 wk, which were repeated after a 3-wk no-treatment interval.
LI-ESWT was applied to the penile shaft and crura at five different sites.
Assessment of erectile function was performed at screening and at 1 mo after the end of the two treatment sessions using validated sexual function questionnaires, NPT parameters, and penile and systemic endothelial function testing. The IIEF-ED questionnaire was answered at the 3- and 6-mo follow-up examinations.
Results and limitations
We treated 20 middle-aged men (average age: 56.1 yr) with vasculogenic ED (mean duration: 34.7 mo). Eighteen had cardiovascular risk factors. At 1 mo follow-up, significant increases in IIEF-ED domain scores were recorded in all men (20.9 ± 5.8 vs 13.5 ± 4.1, p < 0.001); these remained unchanged at 6 mo. Moreover, significant increases in the duration of erection and penile rigidity, and significant improvement in penile endothelial function were demonstrated. Ten men did not require any PDE5-I therapy after 6-mo follow-up. No pain was reported from the treatment and no adverse events were noted during follow-up.
This is the first study that assessed the efficacy of LI-ESWT for ED. This approach was tolerable and effective, suggesting a physiologic impact on cavernosal hemodynamics. Its main advantages are the potential to improve erectile function and to contribute to penile rehabilitation without pharmacotherapy. The short-term results are promising, yet demand further evaluation with larger sham-control cohorts and longer follow-up.