In early 2021, Scott Bridges was staying with his son in Sandy, Utah, when he woke up one morning unable to urinate. For 16 frustrating hours, the 64-year-old continued to return to the toilet without being able to urinate.
Throughout the day, his situation only got worse until he decided to go to a nearby emergency department. A nurse inserted a catheter and emptied more than a liter of her bladder.
âI had this attack with my prostate, and it just stopped me,â Scott recalls. “It stopped me in my tracks.”
The next day, Scott traveled to Washington state, only to find again that he couldn’t urinate. After going to a local emergency room, he ended up wearing a catheter for six weeks.
Upon his return to Utah, Scott saw a provider in the Department of Urology at the University of Utah Health. The urologist explained that Scott suffered from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous disease in which the prostate enlarges. The normal prostate of a man weighs 20 grams; Scott weighed 130 grams.
When the prostate swells, it often slows down a man’s urine flow. Sometimes in just a few hours it swells so much that a man cannot urinate at all.
The primary role of the prostate is reproduction, “by making some of the fluid in semen,” says Kelli Gross, MD, urologist specializing in male infertility and male health at the University of Utah Health.
An enlarged prostate is a condition that typically affects men over 40, Gross says. “The prostate tends to get bigger with age, which can sometimes lead to urinary symptoms. It can slow the flow of urine, or men may have trouble starting to urinate.”
After the tests, Scott learned that his prostate was about six times the size of a normal prostate. Scott called a friend of his who had similar prostate issues several years ago. This friend underwent a minimally invasive procedure known as the HoLEP procedure – Holmium Laser Enucleation of the Prostate. He has not had any prostate problems since the procedure.
Gross is the only vendor in Utah that performs HoLEP. When Scott went to see her, she explained what the procedure was all about. She passes a telescope with a laser and a camera through the penis into the prostate, using the laser to remove the majority of the pulp tissue in the center of the prostate while keeping the outer edge of the organ itself intact.
Gross’s mentor described the procedure, she recalls, “like peeling an orange from the inside.” Using the laser, she removes all the excess prostate tissue, pushes it into the bladder, and uses a special device to break up and remove the prostate tissue.
In Scott’s case, Gross removed 85% of his prostate in a two-hour procedure. After the operation, he returned home with a catheter. The next day, Gross staff removed it. Scott hasn’t had a catheter since, he says.
Gross warned him that there was the potential for incontinence and blood in his urine, as well as pain in his genitals, for several months after the operation. But after just two weeks, Scott’s only problem – blood in his urine – had stopped.
âThe risk of long-term incontinence is very low,â says Gross – only 1-2% of patients. Gross explains what can happen after the procedure, however. During sex, “a man’s ejaculate doesn’t necessarily come forward or come out,” she says. “For most people, it won’t have a huge effect unless they’re worried about reproduction.”
Scott remains delighted with the procedure and the heartwarming professionalism of Gross and his staff. âA few months after my operation, my bladder empties every time I urinate and I sleep six hours a night,â he says. As for postoperative sexual function, he is “happy to report that all aspects of my body’s function in marital relationships are just as they should be.”
Scott points out that this is “a serious health problem for men over 40,” he says. “And especially those aged 60 and over.”
Given the role the urinary tract plays in draining toxins that can build up in our bodies, the HoLEP procedure could be “a lifeline in severe cases,” he says. “It will definitely add years of comfort and better health to your life if you are suffering from symptoms related to BPH.”