Shockwaves could treat impotence: A study
– Reported, May 15, 2013
Shockwaves could be a novel way to treat impotence. Scientists say a new device that releases thousands of energy waves may help by increasing blood flow. The painless treatment, which uses the same technology as that used to zap kidney stones, helps create new blood vessels. Early studies suggest a good success rate. A healthy blood supply is crucial for creating and maintaining an erection. If the blood vessels narrow usually because they become furred up with fatty deposits it can significantly reduce blood flow in the penile tissue, as the blood vessels there are very small.
Lifestyle changes and medications such as Viagra can help (though there is thought to be an 80 per cent chance of a drug working, they are not effective for everyone).
The new non-drug treatment uses a technology called extracorporeal shockwave therapy. With kidney stones, the energy waves cause the stones to shatter and they can then be passed naturally out of the body. The erectile dysfunction device which resembles a mobile phone uses 10 per cent of the power of kidney stone machines. The device was developed after studies suggested that shockwaves stimulate blood flow in damaged heart tissue. In patients with angina, the treatment was found to promote the growth of new blood vessels.
How the treatment works is unclear, but one theory is that the energy waves cause tiny amounts of damage, which triggers the bodys repair systems to release compounds called growth factors. These stimulate the development of new blood vessels. The treatment sessions last about 20 minutes, with around 5,000 shockwaves delivered each time (this is comparable to other treatments, such as those for kidney stones, but in this case the shockwaves are weaker), causing a slight tingling sensation. Most men are given four sessions of treatment. In one study at Rambam Hospital, Israel, published in the journal European Urology, the device was used on 20 men, aged 33 to 68, who had suffered impotence for an average of three years.
There was a significant increase in the duration of erection and penile rigidity, and half of the men no longer required drug therapy six months after the treatment. In a second study by the same hospital, the treatment was compared to placebo in 84 men. Those having the treatment saw a significant improvement in their ability to achieve and maintain an erection three times greater than compared to those who had the sham therapy. The treatment will not, however, help those who suffer from nerve damage, for instance as a result of prostate cancer.
Commenting on the technology, Professor Raj Persad, urological surgeon at Bristol Royal Infirmary, said: Any means of improving penile blood flow to enhance or restore erectile function is good if it can be non-invasive, as this is a delicate area.Initial results are encouraging and suggest that this approach is safe and effective. We need to wait for long-term data. The health of blood vessels depends on many factors diabetes, blood pressure and smoking are the chief influences. The device, which is available only for use in clinics and is supplied by British company Vertec, is expected to be used in the first UK clinic in the next six months. Meanwhile, scientists have revealed that the erectile dysfunction treatment Viagra could help patients recover from brain injury.
After a head injury, inflammation and damage to the blood vessels is thought to deprive brain cells of oxygen and nutrients. However, early-stage studies have shown that drugs known as phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors (which includes Viagra) help widen blood vessels that are still healthy, improving blood flow, and aiding the repair of damaged cells.
In a new U.S. trial, sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Health, the effects of the drug will be compared to placebo, with patients given the drug twice daily for eight weeks.