Aquablation Therapy Offers Alternative Approach for Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

More on the procedure and the institutional experience

BPH, or benign prostatic hyperplasia, causes enlargement of the prostate and is the most common prostate issue for men, affecting the majority as they age.

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Common symptoms include difficult urination and incontinence. Without treatment, BPH can result in further blockage of the urethra and worsening symptoms, such as urinary tract infections, bladder stones, blood in urine and kidney damage.

There are currently a variety of treatment options for this condition, including medications and surgery. Aquablation® — a minimally invasive modality that received FDA clearance in 2017 — has been gaining momentum in recent years. This approach has shown to provide long-term relief, even among men with larger prostates, with a low rate of complications.

“This procedure is indicated for men with BPH who require more than medication to relieve their lower urinary tract symptoms,” says Dennis Bentley, MD, Department of Urology. “It’s designed to remove tissue with fewer side effects because everything is mapped out with an ultrasound and important structures are maintained. This gives aquablation an advantage over some of the existing procedures available today.”

Dr. Bentley, alongside his colleague Brian Canterbury, MD, spearheaded efforts at Cleveland Clinic to integrate this procedure into clinical practice. To date, they have collectively performed aquablation on more than 40 BPH patients, resulting in improved outcomes and increased quality of life.

A minimally invasive approach

This resective procedure uses a heat-free waterjet that is controlled by robotic technology to remove the prostate tissue causing lower urinary tract symptoms in men with BPH.

Aquablation, which is indicated for prostates of any size and shape, combines a cystoscope with ultrasound imaging. This allows the surgeon to see the entire prostate in real time, enhancing the precision of the procedure.

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Patients undergo an initial evaluation to assess the size and shape of the prostate as well as urine flow, explains Dr. Bentley. The surgery itself typically takes less than one hour and requires an overnight hospital stay; however, some patients may be able to go home same day.

“The procedure is either done under general or spinal anesthetic,” says Dr. Bentley. “Unlike any other BPH-related surgery, aquablation is an image-guided procedure allowing for increased precision and ensuring all of the important structures, such as the sphincter muscle, bladder, and ejaculatory ducts, are identified and maintained.

“Additionally, there is no heat dissipation since this procedure uses a waterjet,” he continues. “The tissue that may take an hour or more to remove with traditional approaches is resected by the robotically controlled unit without heat in less than 10 minutes and much more precisely because it is mapped out.”

There is limited downtime for patients who undergo this procedure, according to Dr. Bentley, who notes that bleeding is expected for a short period of time and there is the possibility of a urinary tract infection.

“However, the typical complications of urine leakage, retrograde ejaculation problems with erection, and erectile dysfunction are much lower with aquablation than with other treatments,” he says. “Specifically, this approach enables us to map out and maintain ejaculatory function for patients.”

Compared with medications and other minimally invasive treatments that don’t remove tissue, BPH patients who receive aquablation have much better long-term symptom control due to the resective nature of this procedure.

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“This minimally invasive procedure is safe with long-term durability and a low-side effect profile,” Dr. Bentley says, while noting that aquablation should be considered for BPH patients who fail medication or those who prefer a surgical approach. “This procedure is also an option for men with larger prostates who might not be candidates for more traditional approaches that have size limitations.”

Patient experience at Cleveland Clinic

Aquablation has been available at Cleveland Clinic for approximately six months and during that time more than 40 patients have benefited from aquablation. Given the positive outcomes to date, there are plans to expand its use and availability across the network.

After the procedure, Dr. Bentley typically conducts follow-up visits at two and six weeks. At that time, urine flow is evaluated and compared to pre-procedure assessments. Additionally, the American Urological Association (AUA) symptom score is also measured.

“The outcomes we have observed so far have been excellent,” Dr. Bentley notes. “There has been a marked improvement in urine flow and more than a 10-point reduction in AUA symptom score. This procedure has also resulted in a definite preservation of sexual function for our patients.”

“Aquablation is an example of the power of image-guided technology and the impact it can have on patient outcomes and quality of life,” he concludes.