The University of North Carolina is studying the effectiveness of Prostatic Artery Embolization to treat BPH

Ari Isaacson, MD, assistant professor, division of Vascular Interventional Radiology, is the principal investigator in the study.

The University of North Carolina is studying the effectiveness of Prostatic Artery Embolization to treat BPH click to enlarge Ari Isaacson, MD

The University of North Carolina will soon begin a study to evaluate the use of prostatic artery embolization (PAE) in patients with severe benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).  Ari Isaacson, MD, assistant professor, division of Vascular Interventional Radiology, will serve as the principal investigator in the UNC-sponsored study.

An enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is the most common noncancerous prostate problem, occurring in most men by the time they reach their 60s.  Symptoms of BPH can include slow, interrupted, or weak urinary stream; urgency with leaking or dribbling; and frequent urination, especially at night.

PAE is a new procedure that decreases the size of the prostate by blocking its arterial blood flow. Through a puncture in the upper thigh, a catheter is directed to the prostatic artery using fluoroscopic guidance. Once in place, tiny particles are injected to obstruct the prostatic arteries, resulting in a reduction in the size of the prostate gland.

The UNC study is designed to assess the effectiveness of PAE in men with severe BPH and refractory lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).  Study participants will be recruited from UNC Urology clinics as well as referring providers.

“The study is for men who have a large prostrate of over 80 grams,” explains Dr. Isaacson.   “When the prostate becomes this large, transurethral procedures such as TURP become more difficult, resulting in many men having to undergo open surgery.  Because of the risks associated with this surgery, we would like to investigate a minimally-invasive alternative that in other studies has yet to demonstrate any risk of significant bleeding or sexual dysfunction.”

He adds, “The study will include extensive follow-up evaluation and testing in order to accurately assess the effectiveness and safety of PAE in this specific population.”

Charles Burke, MD, Associate Professor, Radiology, and Division Chief, Vascular Interventional Radiology, says, "It should be noted that although PAE is a new procedure, the skills involved are not new to Interventional Radiology. We regularly use very similar techniques and equipment to treat uterine fibroids. Given the available data, we are dedicated to bringing this procedure to patients at UNC.” 

“Additionally, while it is a brand new procedure in the U.S.,  the more long-term results that have been reported out of Europe show that it is effective without risk of sexual side effects," explains Dr. Burke.

There are a few places in the U.S. that are doing the PAE procedure, but not many. “I am not aware of anyone in North Carolina who is doing this procedure,” adds Dr. Burke. 

To find out more about the procedure or about the enrollment requirements for the clinical trial at UNC, contact Dr. Isaacson, Terry S. Hartman, MPH, or Shanah Kirk.