November 7, 2018

Urologists are using a new technique to perform biopsies on the prostate.  The procedure is more comfortable, reduces the risk of infection and obtains better samples.

A prostate biopsy is a procedure used to detect prostate cancer.  Small samples of the prostate are removed and then observed under a microscope.  A urologist or surgeon usually performs this procedure, and looks at the prostate cell samples to see if they are cancerous.  Cancer cells often are irregular in size and shape, and exhibit aggressive growth.

The traditional method of the prostate biopsy involves passing a needle through an ultrasound probe placed in the rectum that passes through the wall of the lower intestine.

But there are limitations and complications.

Even though patients are prescribed antibiotics, 5 to 6 percent could get an infection that requires hospitalization.  Doctors have to stick the patient multiple times to obtain samples, and they can't get to parts of the prostate.

"The average patient would have 12 needle samples taken from the prostate, which requires at least 12 needle sticks through the lining of the intestine along with needle sticks to administer anesthetics," said Dr. James P. Tierney, urologist.  "The new process is to still use ultrasound, but only use two needle sticks, similar in size to having blood work performed, through the skin."

This takes place between the scrotum and the anus.  This technique, which uses a guide that clips to the ultrasound, was developed by Dr. Matthew Allaway while he was a resident at CAMC.

Doctors insert the biopsy needles through the larger needle and can now obtain more samples from different areas of the prostate giving them better diagnostic information.

Watch: Dr. Tierney explains the benefits of the new technique.

"Traditionally we'd receive the information we needed to find or eliminate cancer in about 20 to 40 percent of samples from patients," Tierney said.  "Using this new technique with more samples, we receive the diagnostic information we need in about 70 to 80 percent."

This new biopsy technique also allows doctors to administer anesthesia in a way that is less painful to the patient.

"Having better information in the biopsy cuts down on the number of times patients need a PSA (prostate cancer detecting blood test), repeat biopsies or radiology procedures to detect or rule out cancer," Tierney said.  "This is changing the way urologists across the country are doing prostate biopsies."

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