Southampton doctors pioneer technique to halt prostate problems


Doctors at Southampton’s university hospitals are the first in the UK to treat men suffering from the severe effects of an enlarged prostate using a pioneering non-surgical procedure.

The innovative technique, known as prostate artery embolisation (PAE), involves using a tiny plastic catheter inserted in the groin to place particles the size of grains of sand into the prostate arteries to cut the blood supply and shrink the gland.

Also referred to as benign prostatic hyperplasia, the condition forces the prostate to expand onto the urethra – the tube connecting the bladder to the penis – and causes sufferers difficulty in starting urination, a frequent need to urinate and an inability to empty the bladder. 

The problem affects around 60% of men over 60 and is usually treated with medication and lifestyle changes or, if these are unsuccessful, invasive surgery, which carries the possibility of side effects including incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Dr Nigel Hacking and Dr Tim Bryant, consultant interventional radiologists at Southampton General Hospital, are the first in the UK to start the treatment and believe its introduction marks a “major milestone” for patients.

“Most men are likely to suffer the consequences of an enlarged prostate later in life and it is a particularly uncomfortable and unpleasant condition which can seriously damage quality of life,” Dr Hacking explained.

“And, as lifestyle changes such as reduced fluid intake and medication are often unsuccessful, thousands of men around the UK have to undergo surgery to relieve their symptoms, often resulting in longer recovery periods and side effects.

“This technique allows us to halt symptoms non-surgically through just a one to two hour procedure under local anaesthetic which sees the patient home within four to six hours – it is a major milestone.”

Dr Hacking, who helped devise a similar method to shrink fibroids in women, known as uterine fibroid embolisation (UFE), said PAE had improved symptoms in 80% of patients who took part in international pilot studies.

The new technique also does not carry many of the side effects associated with surgical option transurethral prostatectomy (TURP), the most commonly used treatment for enlarged prostate.

Posted on Wednesday 25 April 2012