An enlarged prostate, also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is common among older men, especially those over the age of 70. When this happens, the size of the prostate gland increases. However, the prostate grows inward, sometimes squeezing the urethra, which runs through the middle of it. (The urethra is the tube that allows semen and urine to exit the body.) As a result, many men with BPH have trouble urinating.
Stents are cylinder-shaped devices made of metal or plastic. They are often used to keep blood vessels clear. They can be used in the urethra, too, and are sometimes used to treat BPH. Stents can prop the urethra open so that the prostate gland doesn’t push on it and block the flow of urine.
However, stents are not usually the first line of treatment. They are more often used for men who cannot have other types of treatment, such as medication or surgery, because of other health conditions.
Scientists aren’t yet sure whether stents can be used on a long-term basis, so they are generally considered temporary options until another treatment can be done. Most stents are used for about a month.
Some patients prefer stents because they are an alternative to a long-term catheter, which requires a leg bag to collect urine. Stents can be placed fairly quickly with spinal anesthesia and the hospital stay is typically short. Some men do not need to stay overnight. Recovery time is usually short as well.
Complications of prostatic stents include bladder stones and the formation of granulation tissue. This “extra” tissue forms around the stent and can eventually block the urethra.
Men with BPH are encouraged to discuss all their treatment options with a urologist.