Scott Pate, M.D.
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Sterile steam has multiple uses in health care. It can sterilize surgical instruments, clear blocked nasal passages and humidify hospital rooms to limit the spread of pathogens. It also can be used in a minimally invasive therapy to treat an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a common condition as men age. By age 60, about 30% of men show moderate to severe symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia that require treatment. By age 80, that number grows to 50%.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- A slow or weak urine stream.
- A feeling of urine still in the bladder.
- Taking a long time to empty the bladder.
- Getting up multiple times at night to urinate.
Of those with an enlarged prostate, about half have symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia.
Steam therapy, also called water vapor thermal therapy, is a minimally invasive treatment option to reduce the size of the prostate and lessen symptoms. It has been shown to effectively eliminate excess prostate tissue and has a low risk of side effects. It is effective for treating small and average-size prostates.
What to expect with steam therapy
Steam therapy is performed under local anesthesia in the clinic. Most patients report mild discomfort during treatment but no pain. No incisions are needed.
During the treatment, a physician inserts a small needle into the urethra and positions it within the prostate gland. In nine seconds, the needle produces a 2-centimeter-wide steam ball that shrinks surrounding prostate tissue. It does not carry heat outside the prostate or affect other surrounding tissues. The number of treatments increases with prostate size but can be completely treated during one visit.
The needle is removed, and a temporary catheter is placed to drain urine from the bladder. This catheter is usually removed after three to five days.
Most patients can return home the same day as steam therapy and resume regular activities within a few days. Initially, benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms may worsen before they improve. This is because the treatment causes some swelling. Some patients start to experience fewer benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms within two weeks, and most see improvements by six weeks.
Benefits of steam therapy
Steam therapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia has many benefits. It is a quick outpatient procedure with little downtime required. It's a good option for patients who are not interested or unable to take benign prostatic hyperplasia medications, and it produces long-lasting results and relief from benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms. Finally, the treatment does not affect erectile function and rarely affects ejaculation.
Talk with your health care team about any benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms you are experiencing. Together, you will consider your symptoms, the size of your prostate, and your goals to determine if treatment is needed and the best option for you.