Prostate Artery Embolization

For the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia

What Is Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia?

As men age, the prostate continues to grow. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a condition that causes the prostate to be enlarged, but it is not cancer. More than 80 percent of men will develop BPH, with 50 percent of men developing the condition by the age of 50. In men with BPH, the enlarged prostate puts pressure on the urethra and bladder. This weakens and irritates the bladder, resulting in:

  • Frequent urination
  • Straining
  • Hesitancy
  • Weak stream
  • Urgency to urinate
  • Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
  • Excessive urination at night (nocturia)

If left untreated, BPH can lead to:

  • Incontinence
  • Kidney stones
  • Bladder damage and infection

Men with symptoms of BPH should seek treatment to prevent kidney damage and other serious conditions.

Prostate Artery Embolization

Prostate artery embolization (PAE) is a new, minimally invasive procedure used to treat BPH. PAE may be an option for patients with moderate to severe urinary symptoms. Northwestern Medicine physicians make PAE available through standard of care treatments with embolic agents that have been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

PAE is performed under local anesthesia with sedation. During the procedure, a specially trained interventional radiologist inserts a small catheter, or hollow tube, into an artery in the leg or wrist. Using 3-D X-ray, the catheter is guided through the artery to the arteries that feed the prostate.

Once the arteries to the prostate are reached, thousands of microscopic beads are delivered through the catheter to permanently block blood flow to the prostate. This causes the prostate to shrink over time, improving urinary symptoms.

Recovery from PAE

PAE is a same-day outpatient procedure. Following the procedure, you will need about two hours to recover. Then, you will be discharged home with over-the-counter pain medications and a short course of antibiotics. Normal activities may be resumed the next day.

For many patients, symptom relief will occur in the next month following the procedure, and improvement should continue over the next six months. Data from Northwestern Medicine researchers have shown improvement of urinary symptoms in 80 percent to 90 percent of patients.

Potential Side Effects

Because PAE is a non-surgical treatment, possible side effects are limited, but can include:

  • Urinary tract infection: Infections are seen in less than one percent of patients. Antibiotics are given during the procedure, and a short course should be taken afterwards to help avoid this possibility.
  • Increased urinary frequency, urgency and burning with urination: These side effects can last for up to a week after the procedure.

Unlike traditional treatments for BPH, PAE is not typically associated with sexual/erectile dysfunction. At Northwestern Medicine, physicians use leading-edge imaging and catheter techniques, and patients have not reported any side effects related to sexual or erectile dysfunction. In addition, many patients have been able to cease the use of their BPH medications entirely following treatment.

For More Information

For more information about PAE, contact: