2 The condition, current treatments and procedure
2.1 Lower urinary tract symptoms caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia commonly affect men over 50. Stromal and epithelial cells increase in number, causing the prostate to increase in size. It often occurs in the peri-urethral region of the prostate, with large discrete nodules compressing the urethra. Symptoms include hesitancy during micturition, interrupted or decreased urine stream (volume and flow rate), nocturia, incomplete voiding and urinary retention.
2.2 Mild symptoms are usually managed conservatively. Drugs may also be used, such as alpha blockers and 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors. If other treatments have not worked, there are a range of surgical options that may be considered including transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), transurethral vaporisation, holmium laser enucleation, insertion of prostatic urethral lift implants, prostatic artery embolisation or prostatectomy (see the NICE clinical guideline on lower urinary tract symptoms in men). Potential complications of some of these surgical procedures include bleeding, infection, urethral strictures, incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
2.3 Transurethral water vapour ablation is usually done as day-case surgery using local anaesthetic including a peri-prostatic block, and sometimes sedation. A device similar to a rigid cystoscope is advanced into the prostatic urethra. Under direct visualisation, a retractable needle is inserted into the prostate and water vapour (at a temperature of about 103 degrees centigrade) is delivered for 8 to 10 seconds. At the same time, saline irrigation is used to cool and protect the surface of the urethra. Conductive heat transfer disrupts cell membranes in the prostate, leading to rapid cell death. The needle is retracted and repositioned several times so that thermoablation can be repeated in different areas of the gland, including the median lobe. The aim is to reduce the size of the prostate, leading to improvement in lower urinary tract symptoms 1 to 3 months after treatment, without impairing sexual function.
2.4 Patients may have to take antibiotics and have a urinary catheter for some days after the procedure. Some activities, including sexual intercourse, should be avoided for up to 1 month.