updated 11/23/2009 1:03:31 PM ET 2009-11-23T18:03:31

If you experience impotence, instead of a little blue pill maybe you want to apply shockwaves to your privates instead.

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Experiments now suggest directing shockwaves at penises can help treat erectile dysfunction.

"We can really reverse erectile problems with this," researcher Yoram Vardi, head of the neuro-urology department at Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel, told LiveScience.

"While patients with erectile dysfunction can function with Viagra or Cialis, this is not a cure — when they stop the medication, they cannot function," he added. "This is only a preliminary study, but here with shockwaves, we can do something biological for the problem — after treatments, these patients can function without the need for medication."

In animal studies, low-intensity shockwaves have been proven to trigger growth of new blood vessels from existing ones. Vardi and his colleagues therefore speculated that shockwave therapy could help men whose erectile dysfunction stems from reduced blood flowto their penises.

"Cardiovascular problems are responsible for approximately 80 percent of patients with erectile dysfunction, so that's a huge amount of patients," Vardi explained.

Volunteers shocked
The researchers treated 20 volunteers with an average age of 56 years old who had mild or moderate erectile dysfunction for roughly three years.

At each session, a device that resembles a computer mouse applied shockwaves at five different sites on their penises.

"These are very, very low energy shock waves," Vardi said. Each shockwave applied roughly 100 bar of pressure — some 20 times the air pressure in a bottle of champagne, but less than the pressure exerted by a woman in stiletto heels who weighs 132 lbs. (60 kg).

"This sort of energy is completely different from what you would get in a massage, although everyone can do what they want," Vardi said.

Each site on the penis received some 300 shockwaves over the course of three minutes. The men underwent two weekly sessions for three weeks, and then repeated this course of therapy after three weeks of rest.

Significant improvement was seen in 15 of 20 men. "We didn't find any side effects, and it didn't hurt," Vardi noted.

Even if further studies bear out these results, this is not a cure for everyone,Vardi cautioned. The researchers chose men whose problems were apparently due to blood flow, as opposed to nerve, muscle or other issues.

Expanding tests
The researchers are now expanding their research with placebo groups and more patients.

"This is only the beginning — we need to understand much better what is happening," Vardi said. "We also want to see how long this response will stand — is it forever, one year, two years, six months? We know that at three months, it stays the same."

Vardi and his colleagues detailed their findings November 17 at the European Society for Sexual Medicine meeting in Lyon, France.

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