Extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT) for wound healing: technology, mechanisms, and clinical efficacy

Wound Repair Regen. 2012 Jul-Aug;20(4):456-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-475X.2012.00796.x. Epub 2012 May 29.


For almost 30 years, extracorporeal shock wave therapy has been clinically implemented as an effective treatment to disintegrate urinary stones. This technology has also emerged as an effective noninvasive treatment modality for several orthopedic and traumatic indications including problematic soft tissue wounds. Delayed/nonhealing or chronic wounds constitute a burden for each patient affected, significantly impairing quality of life. Intensive wound care is required, and this places an enormous burden on society in terms of lost productivity and healthcare costs. Therefore, cost-effective, noninvasive, and efficacious treatments are imperative to achieve both (accelerated and complete) healing of problematic wounds and reduce treatment-related costs. Several experimental and clinical studies show efficacy for extracorporeal shock wave therapy as means to accelerate tissue repair and regeneration in various wounds. However, the biomolecular mechanism by which this treatment modality exerts its therapeutic effects remains unclear. Potential mechanisms, which are discussed herein, include initial neovascularization with ensuing durable and functional angiogenesis. Furthermore, recruitment of mesenchymal stem cells, stimulated cell proliferation and differentiation, and anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects as well as suppression of nociception are considered important facets of the biological responses to therapeutic shock waves. This review aims to provide an overview of shock wave therapy, its history and development as well as its current place in clinical practice. Recent research advances are discussed emphasizing the role of extracorporeal shock wave therapy in soft tissue wound healing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • High-Energy Shock Waves / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / pathology
  • Soft Tissue Injuries / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / economics
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / methods*
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / trends
  • Wound Healing*