Transurethral Needle Ablation

Transurethral needle ablation of the prostate, also known as TUNA, is a minimally invasive treatment for an enlarged prostate gland. The prostate gland is part of a man's reproductive system. An enlarged prostate, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia or BPH, is a common condition that occurs as men age, causing the gland to press against the urethra and cause problems with urination. In severe cases, BPH can completely block the ability to pass urine.

The TUNA procedure utilizes high-frequency radio waves to destroy the superfluous tissue of the prostate gland. As the prostate tissue shrinks, the pressure on the urethra is alleviated, and therefore urinary difficulties are decreased.

Candidates for the TUNA Procedure

There are several procedures available to treat BPH, however, the TUNA procedure may be preferred if the patient is not a good candidate for surgery due to health problems or problems related to general anesthesia. It is often a treatment option chosen by BPH patients who may be at risk for more invasive surgery.

Benefits of a TUNA Procedure

Transurethral needle ablation produces relief of BPH symptoms with much less risk than major surgery. TUNA is performed as an outpatient procedure so most patients do not need to stay overnight in the hospital. The procedure also has a shorter recovery time than more invasive surgery.

The TUNA Procedure

TUNA is performed as an outpatient procedure, and usually takes under an hour to complete. The patient may be sedated and a local anesthesia is applied to the penis to numb the urethra. The surgeon will pass a tiny, lighted, flexible tube called a cystoscope into the urethra. The scope allows the doctor to see the area where the enlarged prostate is causing problems with passing urine. Finally, the surgeon will insert needles into the enlarged areas of the prostate gland and send high-frequency radio waves through the needles, which will destroy the tissue around the needles. A catheter is then inserted into the penis to pass urine until the patient can urinate on his own.

Complications of the TUNA Procedure

Transurethral needle ablation is a relatively safe and non-invasive procedure, however, possible complications include:

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Worsening urinary problems
  • Urinary tract infections

Some patients may require additional treatment because they develop long-term prostate irritation that can cause swelling and pain.

Recovery from a TUNA Procedure

After a period of medical monitoring, the patient is discharged. Discomfort during urination and blood in the urine are common for the first day or two after the procedure. Patients may be required to use a catheter for a few days, or up to a week after surgery. Patients are advised to avoid any strenuous activity for three to five days. Sexual activity can usually be resumed within a few weeks.

Transurethral needle ablation is an effective treatment but it may take patients a few months to notice significant improvement as the body needs time to break down and absorb the destroyed prostate tissue.

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