Urologists develop painless way to treat prostate problems


Washington : The painful insertion of a rigid instrument through the penis to scrape unwanted tissues lining the walnut-sized prostate gland, may soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a gentler method developed by scientists.

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Urologist William Roberts and a team at the University of Michigan led by Ann Arbor are fine-tuning a technique to remove unwanted prostate tissue using focused pulses of ultrasound.

Their technique, histotripsy, has now been used to safely trim the interiors of aging prostates in the body.

Unlike other therapeutic ultrasound technologies under development, which create heat to boil pathogenic tissue, histotripsy mechanically breaks down tissue with shorter, strong pulses of ultrasound.

These pulses create tiny bubbles out of dissolved gas in prostate tissue. As the bubbles violently collapse, they release tiny shock waves, a phenomena called acoustic cavitation.

Over tens of thousands of pulses, the combined force of these cavitations liquefies nearby tissue into slurry that is eliminated through the urine. This tissue excavation can be monitored and targeted in real time with acoustic imaging.

“Historically, no one believed that cavitation could be controlled like this. We’re the only group doing this kind of work,” said Roberts. His team used the technique to dissolve marble-sized chunks of cells in the walls of prostates.

Side-effects common in traditional prostrate treatments — bleeding and inflammation — were minimal after histotripsy treatment, as were signs of discomfort.

Roberts hopes to develop histotripsy into a clinical treatment for early-stage cancer and enlarged prostate (BPH), said a Michigan release.

These findings will be presented at the 157th Acoustical Society of America meeting scheduled May 18-22 in Portland, Oregon.