Prostate Treatment Raises Blood Pressure

The surge linked to a microwave therapy for enlarged prostate could put men at risk of complications.

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Men with enlarged prostates—also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH—who are considering an inpatient procedure called transurethral microwave treatment to control urinary problems received some worrisome news this week from a new study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The procedure, which involves snaking a flexible microwave antenna and catheter up the urethra and zapping overzealous prostate cells to death, unfortunately causes surges in blood pressure for many men, researchers have reported.

The study of 185 patients found that 42 percent of men experienced systolic blood pressure surges of more than 30 mm Hg, while 5 percent had surges of more than 70 mm Hg. "These surges may predispose patients to significant risk for cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke," says Lance Mynderse, the author of the study, in this podcast that explains the study in more detail. Mynderse emphasizes that this new information doesn't mean the procedure, which is generally safe and well tolerated, should be eliminated from the suite of treatment options for BPH. However, doctors should check blood pressure multiple times during the procedure and take other steps to make it as safe as possible, he suggests.

If microwaves in your prostate aren't your cup of tea, there are other options. These include lifestyle change, certain drugs, transurethral needle ablation, laser therapy, and prostatic stents, as well as surgery. All these treatments have pros and cons, as explained in this Mayo Clinic treatment guide.

Mynderse mentions that anxiety about the procedure, during which men are awake, may contribute to the blood pressure surge. For men who have had this procedure, is it as bad as it sounds?