Two-year UNC Clinical Trial Shows Significant Impact of BPH Treatment

In July of 2014, UNC began recruiting patients for a two-year clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy of prostatic artery embolization (PAE) in patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia. PAE is an interventional radiology procedure that offers patients an alternative to more invasive surgical treatments. One of the trial's participants is Larry Sago, who dealt with the effects of benign prostatic hyperplasia – also referred to as an enlarged prostate – for years.

Two-year UNC Clinical Trial Shows Significant Impact of BPH Treatment click to enlarge Clinical Trial Participant Larry Sago

By Laurie Birdsong, Department of Radiology

The study, led by Ari Isaacson, MD, assistant professor, vascular interventional radiology, enrolled 14 patients and has now generated enough data to allow for the planning of further trials to evaluate other embolic materials that could be used in the procedure.

One of the trial's participants is Larry Sago, who dealt with the effects of benign prostatic hyperplasia – also referred to as an enlarged prostate – for years.

Though the medication he was taking was intermittently effective, the condition compromised Sago’s quality of life to the point that urination became increasingly difficult. 

Sago’s barely manageable condition reached its extreme when he awoke one evening in late 2014 without the ability to urinate at all.  Catheterization at the ER permitted him a short-term solution, but Sago knew he needed more long-term care.

The most common surgical option for men with this condition is known as Transurethral Resection of the Prostate, a procedure that removes excess prostate tissue with a surgical resectoscope. Sago, however, was determined to find a less invasive alternative.

After an extensive online search, he found information on Isaacson’s PAE clinical trial.

As Sago recalls: “I emailed Dr. Isaacson as soon as I’d read about [PAE], and amazingly within half an hour, he’d written me back asking for my phone number to further discuss the procedure. When he called back, Dr. Isaacson communicated all aspects of it very clearly.”

Through a minimal arterial puncture, PAE involves injecting tiny particles into an inserted catheter to block blood flow (embolization) to an artery directly supplying the prostate.  Depending on location and size, PAE is repeated for all prostatic arteries, usually through the one puncture.

Sago traveled to Chapel Hill from Atlanta to see Dr. Isaacson soon after they spoke.  Once a biopsy verified that his increased PSA levels indicated no possibility of prostate cancer, Sago was able to enroll in the trial, returning to UNC to undergo the procedure.

“I was so relieved it went easily and involved no pain or bleeding, especially while I was awake with conscious sedation. It was great to spend one night at a hotel in Chapel Hill and drive home to Atlanta the next day.  For about a week, my former BPH symptoms returned, but they were briefer and milder this time. Once they went away, I felt like I was 20 years old again!”

Of Sago’s experience, Dr. Isaacson notes:  “I am so pleased for Larry. His case demonstrates how effective this procedure can be. He went from needing a catheter to urinating like he was twenty years younger without any pain or complications. I hope many more men have the option to choose PAE as a treatment for BPH in the future.”