LA CROSSE, Wis. ― 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, or BPH.
"Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a common condition as men age," says Scott Pate, M.D., a urologist at Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. "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, and 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," says Dr. Pate.
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, we insert a small needle into the urethra and position it within the prostate gland," explains Dr. Pate. "In just 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."
Most patients can return home the same day as steam therapy and resume regular activities within a few days.
"Steam therapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia has many benefits. It is a quick outpatient procedure with little downtime required," says Dr. Pate. "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."
Dr. Pate says patients should talk with their health care team about any benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms. Together, a treatment program can be decided to determine if treatment is needed and the best option for the patient.
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Press ContactRick Thiesse