Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction (ED): What is the difference?

December 23, 2020


The popularity of a non-traditional treatment of erectile dysfunction is growing: Low intensity extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT). Gone are the days of medication therapy as the only treatment option. Low intensity shock wave treatment is becoming popular as it is a safe, non-invasive, drug free treatment option for ED. It uses low intensity shock wave therapy applied to different areas of the penis and surrounding areas to breakdown plaque in the blood vessels in the penis and repair them to improve blood flow.

This treatment is non-invasive, requires no anesthesia, no downtime and causes minimal discomfort often described as a “tingling” sensation. It is performed in the office in short 20-minute sessions. It typically it takes five to ten sessions for improvement and the benefits can last for up to two years. Studies have shown that up to 75% of men who were using medications for ED who underwent low intensity shock wave therapy for ED were able to stop taking their ED meds as their sexual function had improved with the treatments.

There are two types of probes that can be used to deliver shockwave therapy for erectile dysfunction. It is important to know the differences between focused (linear) shockwave and unfocused or radial waves.

At Austin Urology Institute we offer focused (linear) shockwave therapy for treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). GAINSWave and other Class 1 devices use unfocused radial pressure waves (also known as acoustic wave therapy). These radial therapies have not been proven to be clinically effective.

Focused shock waves are the same technology employed in urology for breaking up kidney stones. This type of treatment is fundamentally different to radial pressure waves that are sometimes also referred to as “shock waves.”

Radial pressure waves, or acoustic wave therapy, is akin to sound waves, which are ongoing oscillations that propagate outwards similar to waves on the surface of water. Blood flow increases, the skin warms up, it turns red and there may be an inflammatory response. When this type of therapy is applied to the skin the effect is much like a vibratory massage.

Focused shock waves are single pulses. As the pulses are focused, they converge at a certain point within the tissue. Their effect occurs at the level of cells and is often not visible on the surface of the skin. Considerable research has been conducted on the effects of focused shock waves as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED).

Many large-scale blind studies have now been completed that show that this form of treatment is effective for non-chronic ED that is caused by deficient vascularization.

There have been no large-scale studies showing the effectiveness of radial pressure waves for treating ED at this point. Radial pressure wave devices are classified as “Class 1” medical devices in the United States by the FDA. Their status is similar to vibrators that do not require regulatory approvals and can be used by anyone, with or without medical training.

Focused shockwave devices on the other hand are Class 111, requiring pre-market approvals, documentation on their clinical safety and effectiveness and can only be used by medical personnel and only for approved applications.

At Austin Urology Institute, we offer the most competitive pricing packages in the Austin and Greater Austin Area. If interested in learning more about shock wave therapy treatments for erectile dysfunction, please call Austin Urology Institute at 512-694-8888 or fill out a form to set up a consultation with one of our providers.