(CBS) From incontinence and erectile dysfunction, the side effects of treatment for an enlarged prostate can seem almost as bad as the symptoms the disorder itself.
But a preliminary study to be presented Tuesday at a urology conference in Chicago suggests that things may be looking up for the millions of men who suffer from prostate enlargement, a.k.a. benign prostatic hyperplasia.
The study showed that a minimally invasive procedure is highly effective without the risks commonly associated with the "gold standard" treatment for prostate enlargement, a surgical procedure known as transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), according to a written statement released by the Society of Interventional Radiology.
Doctors expressed high hopes for the breakthrough procedure, known as prostatic artery embololization, or PAE.
"This study is significant because it shows comparable clinical results to transurethral resection of the prostate or TURP - without the risks of surgery, such as sexual dysfunction, urinary incontinence, blood loss and retrograde ejaculation (or entry of semen into the bladder)," Dr. Joao Martins Pisco, chief radiologist at Hospital Pulido Valente in Lisbon, Portugal, said in the statement.
Dr. Pisco called PAE the "future treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia." But some experts have their doubts - especially since BPH can often be controlled with drug therapy.
"Because medication is so effective, most of the patients that we treat surgically are in pretty bad shape," Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a urologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told Healthday. And Dr. Franklin Lowe, associate director of urology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, said PAE was "fraught with complications."
PAE works by blocking the flow of blood to the prostate, which causes the gland to shrink. To perform the procedure, a doctor places tiny particles into the prostatic arteries using a catheter inserted through a small incision in the groin.
If PAE does pan out, plenty of men stand to benefit. In the U.S., an estimated 19 million men have BPH. The condition is marked by urinary frequency and a weakened stream, as well as the need to wake at night to urinate.
Prostate enlargement is very common among older men, with up to half of men over age 60 experiencing symptoms - and up to 90 percent of men over 85. Or, as Dr. Pisco puts it, "all men will have an enlarged prostate if they live long enough."