Prostate artery embolization offers a minimally invasive alternative to surgery

Among the advantages: a day of downtime versus weeks to recover

Men who suffer from urinary symptoms caused by benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) are often presented with two treatment options: medications that can relax the muscles near the prostate or surgery. But there is a third option — prostate artery embolization — and it’s becoming increasingly popular because it is a highly effective and minimally invasive alternative to surgery. 

Mecklenburg Radiology Associates is seeking to raise awareness of prostate artery embolization among patients and their urologists. In fact, we recently spoke about it with Dr. Andrew Demmert, our interventional radiologist who performs the procedure. 

“It’s a newer procedure that’s becoming increasingly popular and is covered by insurance,” he said. “However, a lot of men still don’t realize there is this non-surgical option — and it really is a great option for most men.”

​​BPH is a common condition as men get older. An enlarged prostate gland blocks normal urine flow, causing frequent urination, urination at night, difficulty starting urination, weak urinary stream, or inability to empty the bladder completely. Occasionally, it can also cause infection or blood in the urine. Symptoms tend to worsen over time.

“It’s a frustrating condition that literally keeps men up at night and impacts the quality of their life,” Dr. Demmert noted.

Dr. Demmert pointed out that Prostate artery embolization is similar to uterine fibroid embolization for female patients. It’s a minimally invasive procedure performed under “twilight” sedation in which a catheter is placed into a blood vessel in the groin or wrist. Using real-time imaging guidance, the catheter is steered to the arteries supplying the prostate gland. Once the catheter is in position, tiny particles are injected to block the blood supply to the gland, causing it to shrink. 

The procedure is performed through a tiny incision in the skin the size of a pencil tip and takes about two to three hours. Patients then go home the same day with minimal physical restrictions. By comparison, the recovery time from surgery for BPH is six to eight weeks.

“You can be playing golf the next day,” Dr. Demmert said.

Following the procedure, the prostate gland will decrease in size over the next few weeks and months, improving the flow of urine. A growing body of evidence shows that prostate artery embolization can be as effective in treating BPH as surgery. Large studies have shown that 80-90% of men who undergo the procedure have satisfactory improvement in their symptoms. 

There are other advantages to prostate artery embolization over more invasive surgery as well, including preserved sexual function. 

We are ready to help men say goodbye to frustrating urinary symptoms caused by BPH. If you are a urologist or patient wanting to hear more, reach out to us today at 704.384.9654 or request a consultation.