Shockwave therapy may help improve erectile dysfunction (ED) in some men, according to a new study.

The study, which was a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled investigation, included 112 ED sufferers unable to have intercourse with or without the aid of medication. A team led by Lars Lund, MD, of Odense University Hospital in Odense, Denmark, assessed subjects’ ED at screening and 5, 12, and 24 weeks after treatment by interview and using the Erection Hardness Scale (ESH), and International Index Erectile Function (IIEF-15) questionnaire.

The researchers randomly assigned 51 men to receive low-intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy (LI-ESWT) and 54 to receive a placebo treatment. The men received 5 treatments over 5 weeks. After 10 weeks, the placebo group received active treatment (active placebo group).

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At the 5-week follow-up, the EHS showed that 29 men (57%) in the LI-ESWT group were able to obtain an erection after treatment and to have sexual intercourse without the use of medication compared with only 5 men (9%) in the placebo group, Dr. Lund’s group reported online ahead of print in the Scandinavian Journal of Urology. Assessment using the IIEF-15 questionnaire showed no significant improvement in ED in either group.

After 24 weeks, 7 men in the LI-ESWT group (19%) and 9 (23%) in the active placebo group were still able to have intercourse without medication.

“The treatment is patient friendly, has no side-effects requiring treatment and can be used for all patients,” the authors concluded.

The effect of LI-ESWT on ED remains unclear, Dr. Lund and his colleagues noted. They explained that the basis for its use as an ED treatment is the notion that it could induce the release of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, vascular endothelial growth factors, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen, and thereby enhance neovascularization.