Relief at last! Men suffering from a common prostate condition are set to benefit from a pioneering new implant
- Enlarged prostate associated with ageing, affecting 40 per cent of men over 50
- Pioneering new implant relieves symptoms without risk of long-term damage
- Tiny wire basket inserted into the urethra towards the bladder during operation
Men suffering from a common prostate condition are set to benefit from a pioneering new implant that relieves symptoms without the risk of long-term damage.
An enlarged prostate – known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) – is associated with ageing, and affects up to 40 per cent of men over the age of 50.
The prostate is a chestnut-size gland that sits at the neck of the bladder.
When it swells, it presses down on the urethra, the tube that takes urine out of the body, often causing sufferers sleepless nights with constant visits to the toilet.
This can cause symptoms that are similar to prostate cancer, including difficulties passing urine, urine infections, sexual dysfunction and, in extreme cases, kidney failure.
Most patients are treated with drugs to help shrink the prostate, or with surgery – involving heat or soundwaves to blast away prostate tissue. This helps ease urine flow.
While effective, these options carry a risk of erectile dysfunction or fertility problems..
The experimental device is a tiny wire basket made from an alloy of nickel and titanium which is inserted into the urethra towards the bladder during a simple five-minute operation under local anaesthetic.
The basket gradually expands to the size of a 10p coin once inside the body, and exerts pressure on the prostate at three precise points over five days.
It does not reduce the size of the prostate.
Instead, the continuous pressure creates three deep new channels through which urine can exit the bladder and flow through the urethra and out of the body.
This relieves symptoms almost immediately and the device can be removed completely during a second minor procedure just a few days later.
A small string is attached to the implant to remove it.
The implant is being trialled by 15 patients at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey.
Studies from Italy show that patients are symptom-free after a year. Urologist Professor Prokar Dasgupta began treating patients using the implant at independent hospital and charity The London Clinic in May.
He says: ‘The early trial results are very encouraging.
It is relieving the obstruction and improving symptoms without causing sexual dysfunction, which can be a side effect of existing drug treatments and surgery.’
One of the first British patients, who received the implant at The London Clinic in June but who asked to remain anonymous, says: ‘The benefits are an improved quality of life. I sleep without waking up to use the lavatory several times during the night.
‘Coping with a few days of discomfort after the procedure is well worth the effort for the end result.’
The cause of BPH is not known but it is thought to be linked to levels of the hormone dihydrotestosterone.
This helps the body to mature during puberty, but increases as men age and could cause the prostate to expand. Most prostates begin to enlarge when men are in their 40s, and about 75 per cent of them will suffer from BPH by the time they reach their 70s.
Robin Penberthy, managing director of Genesis Medical, which distributes the implant in the UK, said: ‘We have tremendous interest from urologists all over the country.
‘There is no need for drugs or surgery and I believe this could become the standard procedure for patients with BHP.
At the moment, with standard surgery, patients are hospitalised, there’s a recovery period and there is bleeding.
‘During the five days patients have the implant inserted, there is some discomfort for some patients, but others report no effects at all.’
Consultant urologist Tim Dudderidge adds: ‘I cannot say for certain that there will not be any discomfort. This device is an expanding metal wire putting pressure on the tissue in the urethra, but it is still fairly non-invasive.’