3 million American men suffer
Inability to control your bladder can be an embarrassing problem for men, but a very common one. Around 3 million American men each year are diagnosed with a condition called Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), an enlargement of the prostate causing symptoms such as a weak urine stream, or an unpredictable stopping and starting of urination. In some cases, the condition can lead to more serious effects like bladder stones or reduced kidney function.
“The prostate actually sits right beyond the bladder, so the first passage of the urine when it leaves the bladder is through the prostate,” said Saleen Zafar, M.D. a partner at the Romius Institute in Toledo. “When the prostate enlarges, it can encroach on that channel and obstruct it, which can result in a slow stream, trouble starting your stream, trouble emptying your bladder. And it can also cause what we call irritative symptoms like frequency of urination, urgency of urination, leakage of urine. These are quality of life symptoms that we try to address when we manage patients with symptom-producing BPH.”
Traditionally doctors have treated BPH with medication, which can have some side effects – sexual dysfunction, fatigue, diminished sex drive. If medication doesn’t help, surgical options can be explored, but these can often mean weeks of recovery time.
A new procedure which is gaining popularity in treating BPH is a minor surgery, called Urolift, which can be performed in office and gets patients back on their regular routine in a matter of days instead of weeks.
“The patient is in the office for a total of an hour, but the procedure takes about 15-20 minutes,” Dr. Zafar said. “And we put a material that’s like a stitch, a suture, that compresses the prostate without using any energy. And you actually get an immediate opening of the urinary channel, without any sexual side effects.”
Developed by NeoTract, a California-based medical equipment manufacturer, the procedure has actually been FDA approved for years, but many physicians have waited until more long-term data on UroLift’s effectiveness was available. Dr. Zafar himself only started performing the procedure a year and a half ago.
“It’s not for everybody. We have to do a work up to make sure the patient is the right candidate. There are certainly patients that need other therapies. But the work up is basically focused on the specifics to that patient’s prostate anatomy and their specific set of symptoms, to determine if that would make them an ideal candidate.”
Although the Romius Institute is not the only center in the Toledo area where UroLift is being performed, the doctor said it is the only place in the area that is “consistently performing this procedure. I think most people assume that a lot of the urologic afflictions that they have are a fact of life, and just a matter of aging. And a lot of people are embarrassed to discuss these conditions,” Dr. Zafar said.
“Oftentimes, we’ll see a patient for some unrelated issue and we’ll educate them about the stuff that’s really bothering them, like their leakage of urine or their trouble urinating. And they didn’t realize that there’s so much that can be done about it. That’s probably the biggest thing for most people: Number one, the lack of information about what management options there are, number two, just the embarrassment of talking about it.”