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TUNA for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) is a minimally invasive option for the treatment of urinary symptoms caused by an enlarged prostate. TUNA (transurethral needle ablation) uses radiofrequency waves to heat up and destroy excess cells in the prostate gland.
When the cells are heated to the right temperature, they die. When the cells die, they disappear and the blockage or obstruction is removed. The dead cells are reabsorbed by the body in the weeks following treatment.
How TUNA for BPH Works
TUNA for BPH has been used for many years. The procedure can be done in a physician’s office. Typically, patients receive an anesthetic to remain sleepy since some heat is generated during the treatment.
When being treated with TUNA for BPH, the patient lies on a table with his legs up in stirrups. A special instrument, called a cytoscope, is inserted through the penis into the area of the prostate. A cytoscope is a long thin tube with a light on the end. When the doctor looks through the tube, he or she can see the urethra.
A specially designed catheter is then inserted through the cytoscope into the urethra. A needle is connected to the end of this instrument. The needle uses high temperature heat from low level radio waves. It is pushed into different locations around the prostate gland to kill the excess cells.
The needle is held from one and a half to three minutes at each location where it is placed. The number of needles used is determined by the size and shape of the prostate. The average procedure uses four to six needles.
Since larger prostates require more treatment, TUNA for BPH is best for men whose prostates are not too large. The treatment is useful for prostates about 20 grams in size. It is not as effective for larger prostates.
What to Expect from TUNA for BPH
When compared against transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), TUNA for BPH has several benefits. Research shows that patients who underwent TUNA had fewer complications with postoperative bleeding and sexual disorders. Patients typically do not need hospitalization. In addition, TUNA requires less anesthesia and can be done in a physician’s office.
However, patients who undergo TUNA for BPH may have blood in their urine after the procedure. In addition, the heat may cause swelling, making urination difficult. These complications may require that men use a catheter for one or two days. Some may need to keep it in place for up to two weeks.
Another disadvantage of TUNA for BPH is that improvement rarely occurs overnight like it does with the TURP and green light laser procedures. Men have to be patient to see their symptoms improve after TUNA treatment.
When compared with TURP, TUNA for BPH has a higher failure rate and more frequent need for additional treatment. In cases where TUNA doesn’t provide sufficient symptom relief, patients may have to undergo one of the more extensive procedures at a later date.
In considering TUNA for BPH, patients should weight their desire to have a minimally invasive procedure versus their willingness to accept a second treatment if symptoms recur.
Bouza C et al. Systematic review and meta-analysis of Transurethral Needle Ablation in symptomatic Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia. BMC Urology 2006June 21; 6:14.