“A huge positive impact on my quality of life…”

A patient of Ari Isaacson, MD, came to UNC to have prostatic artery embolization (PAE) to treat his BPH when medications stopped working.

Steve*, a 64-year old retired CEO of a small plastic manufacturing company who lives in Florida, was diagnosed with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) about 20 years ago.  Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an enlarged prostate and 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.

Over the years, Steve, who is in good health otherwise, used over-the-counter supplements to treat his BPH. Gradually, he added prescription alpha blockers and tried medications to shrink the prostate.

“During the past couple of years, my symptoms continued to get worse, and I was on the maximum strength of medications,” says Steve.  “My urologist suggested several options for procedures, but I was not happy with the side effects that would result from those procedures.”

Faced with few options, Steve did his own research and read about prostatic artery embolization (PAE) as a treatment for BPH. 

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 studies on PAE in Portugal had very good results, so I decided to find out if it was an option for me,” explains Steve.

He discovered that very few hospitals in the United States were performing the PAE procedure, so he talked with a friend who is an interventional radiologist at a top-ranked U.S. hospital to find out if he could help.  While Steve’s friend was very familiar with the PAE procedure, his facility was not performing it yet. 

Steve says, “He did, however, indicate to me that UNC had a well-respected reputation in interventional radiology.”

Steve met with Ari Isaacson, MD, assistant professor, division of Vascular Interventional Radiology, and Charles Burke, MD, associate professor and VIR Division Chief, to evaluate if he would be a candidate for the PAE procedure.  After their evaluation, Dr. Isaacson and Dr. Burke knew they could treat Steve with PAE and made arrangements to perform the procedure at UNC in Chapel Hill.  Since Steve was from Florida, they assured him that he’d be home within the week.

“My experience with Dr. Burke, Dr. Isaacson, and the entire staff in interventional radiology was exceptionally positive,” says Steve.  “They performed a pre-op CAT scan on Tuesday, and the PAE on Wednesday. I went back to my hotel that evening and stayed at the hotel until Saturday, at which time I was off all medications and was able to fly my plane back to Florida.”

Within one week following the procedure, Steve’s BPH symptoms were about the same with no medication as they were prior with medications.  After two weeks, he saw a dramatic improvement in symptoms. 

“After one month, my symptoms were nearly nonexistent,” exclaims Steve. “It was like turning back the clock twenty years.  I can now do many more activities without the problems associated with BPH.”

As for his experience at UNC, Steve says, “I would certainly recommend that anyone with BPH consider having the PAE procedure performed at UNC.  It has made a huge positive impact on my quality of life.”

*Name changed for patient privacy


The University of North Carolina is currently conducting a clinical trial to evaluate the use of prostatic artery embolization (PAE) in patients with severe benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).  Ari Isaacson, MD, is the principal investigator in the UNC-sponsored study. The UNC study is designed to assess the effectiveness of PAE in men with severe BPH and refractory lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).  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.

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