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Does Wave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction Work?

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Does Wave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction Work?

Feb 26, 2021

Wave therapy is a non-invasive procedure that has been shown to improve certain types of erectile dysfunction. However, not all wave therapy machines are equal. Urologist Dr. John Smith explains how the use of waves can help stimulate tissue and shares the questions you should ask to ensure that you are getting the very best treatment.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: Wave therapy for erectile dysfunction. We're going to learn more about that today, including what is it and are all wave therapy machines created equal. Dr. John Smith is a urologist at University of Utah Health.

So I've heard of this thing called wave therapy for erectile dysfunction. Can you tell me a little bit how that works? What's going on?

Dr. Smith: Yeah. So the wave therapy machines, there's a few different types and we'll get more into that later. But the idea is, these machines put off a wave similar to like an ultrasound machine where there's a wave coming out of the machine and those waves are meant to help stimulate the tissue for regrowth of blood vessels is what you hear a lot of times on a lot of the advertisements.

And that's what a lot of the research has been shown to do is as these machines are used, that it causes the body to have an increase in the factors that cause regrowth of blood vessels and that's how they work.

Interviewer: All right. And how does that help somebody who is suffering from erectile dysfunction?

Dr. Smith: So a lot of times with erectile dysfunction, you know, it can be as simple as, you know, the blood flow issues. It can be not enough going in, too much going out, those types of things. But a lot of times these wave machines will help to regrow or regrow blood vessels to help more blood go into the penis. Because the erection is pretty much the two chambers on the top of the corporate cavernosa get filled with blood. They become very erect, they become stiff and rigid and that's what gives a good quality erection. And so the more blood flow you have and the more quality blood flow you have, the better quality erections you have.

Interviewer: So individuals that have erectile dysfunction, some of them, it might be because they're not getting enough blood flow. So the sound waves, if I'm correct on this wave machine, actually it helps stimulate more blood vessels. You get more blood in there and then it's just hydraulics. You fill that up and you get a better, more sustainable erection.

Dr. Smith: There's couple of different types of machines and you mentioned sound waves. The most of the literature has been done on the mechanical wave, more of the ESWL machines, a similar type wave that they use to break up kidney stones.

However, there's multiple types of machines. Some of the machines do use acoustic waves or sound waves versus these mechanical waves to do it. And the research has been done with the mechanical wave machines, which have been shown to do a lot more. And the acoustic wave machines haven't really shown to be super beneficial in the research.

Interviewer: So an acoustic wave-like when you get super close to a speaker and you can feel the vibrations, is that what we're talking about with those machines?

Dr. Smith: Similar, yeah. It's an acoustic style wave machine, whereas a mechanical type wave machine uses more of a mechanical pulse wave similar to like I said, breaking up a kidney stone with the shock wave. So they'll call that a shockwave treatment versus the acoustic treatment. And the shockwave treatment has been the one with a lot of the research done over in Europe and other parts of the world to show improvement in regrowth of blood vessels.

Interviewer: So not all wave machines for treating erectile dysfunction are created equal. Now, how do you know the difference? How would a consumer know which machine they're getting when they show up?

Dr. Smith: You would want to be very, you know, you'd want to ask the right questions. What type of machine do you have? There's quite a few different types of machines. And, you know, you'll hear a lot of different things from different people, but the acoustic machines, if you look at the research and actually looked up the studies, the studies have been done with the shock wave machines.

And the shock wave is not new, it's been around for quite a bit of time. It started with kidney stones, where they used to put people in a big bathtub to break up kidney stones. And now they have handheld units with this shockwave therapy and it's actually used quite a bit and is FDA approved in the sports medicine arena for things like plantar fasciitis and other issues that way.

And it's still experimental and not FDA approved for erectile dysfunction, but it is being used for erectile dysfunction as kind of an off-label use because there has been good data that shows increased growth, increased rejuvenation, or neovascularization where there's new blood flow in the area.

Interviewer: And what kind of wave machine does University of Utah Health have?

Dr. Smith: We just actually got a new wave machine and it is the shockwave machine. We made sure we did as much research as we could, knowing that this is kind of a hot topic. A lot of people are very interested. And I get asked about it quite a bit.

And so, in the men's health department, we had a lot of patients who came in and asked quite a bit about it so we did the best research that we could to find a machine that could possibly give us the best benefit.

Now we're very selective with our patients at the University of Utah, for who we would recommend this to because it's not covered by insurance, it's relatively expensive. And again, you have to pick the right folks in order to get a good result. For someone who has a mild erectile dysfunction, someone who's taking pills and doing rather well with them, they may be able to come off the pills completely or need a lower dosage of the pills.

This isn't for someone who has a severe erectile issue after they've had a surgical procedure like a prostatectomy or something like that. It's not going to give them their erectile function back in those instances. This is for a very mild to mild-moderate erectile dysfunction. Those are the people who've really seen a benefit from this machine.

Now, if someone really wanted to say, hey, can you do it? We could do it, but I would very much caveat that to this likely is not going to help you.

And that's really the biggest thing for me is making sure that patients understand the expectations because this is not an FDA-approved treatment for erectile dysfunction yet. However, in the future, it may be as long as the research continues to look promising.

Interviewer: And after those treatments, you said you continue to monitor the patient to see how things go. Generally, are there a lot of follow-ups after that or once the treatments are done and those new blood vessels have grown, generally they survive pretty well and things work out?

Dr. Smith: So depending on the patient's medical history, but a lot of times, right now, we're still working out our protocols because this is relatively new that we have this machine. But again, you know, a lot of these folks, if they're rather healthy individuals who may have just had a blood flow issue, you know, they should be good and it should continue to be beneficial for them for a duration of time.

For folks who may have other medical problems, like people who are diabetics, who are going to have vascular issues, people with cardiovascular disease who are going to continue to have progression of those things over time, those would be people who are going to continue to follow up with us and make sure that, you know, things continue to stay well.

Interviewer: If somebody is having success with the pills, why would they choose the wave machine? Why are people choosing to come off the pills?

Dr. Smith: That's a long discussion that I have with patients, because the big thing is, is people are always looking for the easy, quick fix. And a lot of times the advertisements that they've heard make the wave therapy seem like a quick fix. And, you know, with the shockwave therapy, it can be beneficial, but again, a lot of these people don't understand that, you know, sometimes they may not be a good candidate or it may not be beneficial for them.

So after that discussion, a lot of them will continue with the pills, knowing, you know, the cost of the procedure is relatively, it's not covered by insurance so it costs a little bit more than everything else.

But the main people who will come in and just say, I want to get off of pills, I don't like taking pills, and if there's any possible way I can not have to take pills or not have to do that because erectile dysfunction pills can be somewhat cumbersome. If you have to take them an hour before sex on an empty stomach that can be kind of less spontaneous or, you know, other things, if you've had side effects to the medication, those would be the people who would generally look for another alternative.

I would talk with a professional. Talk with them, ask the right questions. What kind of machine is this? What can I expect? And look at the literature, you don't have to be a scientist to be able to look at it and see, but look at what's been done. And there is some good information out there about it but the shockwave machine has been the one that's shown the most promise of being able to improve erectile dysfunction. I would just say, make sure you're getting what you think you're getting.