By: Eric Klein, MD
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Men: As you age, there’s a good chance you may get up several times a night to empty your bladder. The problem is that your bladder doesn’t empty completely. No matter how hard to you try, you can only deliver a trickle before returning to bed. In a few hours, you are up again. The process repeats itself all night.
For many men, this frustrating scenario is the result of an enlarged prostate that is squeezing the urethra, which prevents the bladder from emptying completely. When the problem is caused by a noncancerous condition, it’s called benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).
Fixing the flow
Until recently, the only way to free the urethra and restore urine flow was to have a physician cut or vaporize the prostate. But this surgery can leave men with a degree of incontinence or impotence.
A new alternative that uses steam holds promise in treating BPH. Researchers developed an entirely new approach to treating BPH by using steam to kill prostate cells and shrink the prostate. The outpatient procedure is performed in about five minutes using a local anesthetic. Most men see improved urine flow in three to six weeks and dramatic improvement in three months.
No major complications from the technique have been reported so far. Because the steam heat stays in the prostate, ejaculation or the ability to have an erection is not affected. Because the treatment does not damage the urinary sphincter, the risk of incontinence is very low.
Some questions remain
The procedure, which is called the Rezūm® System, is so new that only those physicians involved in the procedure’s clinical trials have experience with it. That will change over time as BPH specialists at Cleveland Clinic and other academic medical centers teach other urologists across the country how to perform the procedure.
Also, because the procedure is so new, some questions have not been answered. For example, will a second procedure be needed, and if so, when? And is the Rezūm® System as effective on large prostates as on the smaller ones studied in clinical trials? Answers from research are forthcoming.