In the days following the death of Dick Clark, it was revealed he had undergone a common surgical procedure called TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) the day before he died. Clark had suffered from acute urinary retention related to an enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH), and TURP is often performed to correct this problem. In fact, a new report just published in the Canadian Journal of Urology identified TURP as one of the top two surgical procedures (open prostatectomy was the other one) used to treat BPH.
As is often the case, when someone famous dies, people are interested in the medical details. Although Clark, who at age 82 had a history of stroke and coronary artery disease, did not die of TURP (the cause of death was ruled to be acute myocardial infarction—heart attack), the fact that he had undergone TURP has turned the spotlight on a procedure that is not without complications and that may be unfamiliar to many men. So here are some things you should know about TURP.
TURP is usually performed when other treatment options have not relieved symptoms of BPH or when acute urinary retention occurs (blockage of urinary flow). The surgery is done under general or spinal anesthesia and involves passing a thin wire loop through the urethra. When the loop reaches the prostate, an electrical current is sent through the wire to the blockage, where tissue is removed until the urethra is unblocked.
About 70% or more of men who undergo TURP experience an improvement in symptoms. In fact, an 85% improvement in the American Urological Association symptom index is typical. However, there can be side effects and complications. Erectile dysfunction occurs in 3% to 35% of men, while retrograde ejaculation occurs in 25% to 99% of men. Two to three percent of men need to have a repeat TURP in three years.
Other complications are less likely to occur and may include urinary incontinence, sepsis, remote stricture, ruptured bladder, sphincter damage, and rectal perforation. TUR syndrome, in which the irritation fluid used during the procedure enters the bloodstream and can cause nausea, vomiting, seizures, and brain edema, is a rare occurrence.
TURP is just one of many BPH treatments available to men who suffer with urinary tract symptoms. Talk to your doctor about all your options, including lifestyle and natural treatments and supplements for BPH before making a decision.