While drugs such as Viagra only provide temporary help for some men, the new treatment is thought to offer the first permanent cure for the most common causes of impotence.
It uses low-intensity shock waves on the penis to encourage new blood vessels to grow. It is thought that the procedure will offer hope to thousands of men unable to have sex.
Edinburgh’s private Spire Murrayfield Hospital is the first in the UK to offer the treatment, pioneered in Israel. It involves 12 visits to the clinic over nine weeks and is available for an introductory cost of £1,500.
The system uses sound waves to stimulate new blood vessels to grow. The technology has already been used at different intensities to treat kidney stones, improve blood flow in heart muscles and for inflammation in joints. But doctors discovered it could also be used to treat impotence.
Consultant urological surgeon Roland Donat said: “It doesn’t cause any pain and, amazingly, there aren’t any known side- effects at this point in time.”
Mr Donat started treating patients in Edinburgh with the new system last month. Other clinics in London’s Harley Street and Leeds are due to follow.
“This is the first of its kind. There has never been a treatment that offered a permanent cure or return to spontaneity,” the surgeon said.
“When Viagra came on the market it was a real revolution, and I think this has the potential for being similar. For the first time, we are able to cure some patients rather than treat them symptomatically.”
Impotence is thought to affect up to half of older men – and is more common the older a man gets. About 5 per cent of 40-year-olds and about 15 per cent of 70-year-olds are completely impotent. A further 25 per cent in the 40- to 70-year-old bracket report moderate potency problems.
Mr Donat explained: “A lot of men are quite severely affected by it, and it can affect their relationship with their partner. It does lead to problems with low self-esteem.”
The commonest cause of impotence or erectile dysfunction – in about 70 per cent of cases – is hardening of the arteries, which reduces the blood flow to the penis.
It can also be a side-effect of diabetes, due to medication or pelvic injury, or caused by prostate cancer surgery or psychological issues.
The new treatment, called ED1000, offers hope for those thousands of men with impotence caused by poor blood flow to the penis and also diabetes – and can even help those who don’t respond to drugs.
Drugs such as Viagra, Levitra and Cialis only treat the symptoms, work during a limited time window and have cost implications. They can cost up to £8 a tablet and are only available on the NHS for certain medical conditions. They also take time to be absorbed in the system.
Mr Donat said: “Taking medication for erectile dysfunction is a bit unnatural, requires a degree of planning and takes spontaneity out of sexual activity.”
But while the results so far have been very promising, the new treatment does not work for everybody, he added.
“We only have follow-up information for two years. But in those patients who have had the treatment, the results were maintained over those two years.”
The treatment is even helping men who no longer respond to drugs. Such patients had to rely on a variety of other treatments including injections, vacuum pumps and penile implants.