Benign prostatic enlargement, BPH
The term benign prostatic hypertrophy is also used but technically it is incorrect. Hypertrophy means enlargement of the components without an increase in their numbers as happens with muscle fibres. Hyperplasia is an increase in the number of the components and this is typical of glandular enlargement.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an increase in size of the prostate gland without malignancy present and it is so common as to be normal with advancing age. It seems likely that the nature of BPH is a failure of apoptosis (natural programmed death of cells) and that some of the drugs used to treat it may induce that process.
The prostate secretes about 70% of the volume of seminal fluid. It is a hormone-dependent gland and BPH does not occur in castrated men.
It should be borne in mind that lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) and BPH are not synonymous. Prevailing European guidelines suggest that because BPH is so common in older men, it should not be looked on as the only possible pathology in patients presenting with LUTS. The doctor assessing a patient with LUTS should take an holistic view bearing in mind the full range of causes ad the possibility of co-existing morbidities.
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BPH affects the quality of life of about 40% of men in their fifth decade and 90% of men in their ninth decade. It is unusual before the age of 45 and affects men of Afro-American origin more severely than white men, possibly due to higher testosterone levels, 5-alpha-reductase activity, androgen receptor expression and growth factor activity. One study found some correlation between LUTS and increased prostate volume. The prostate increases in size with passing years but at a decelerating rate. Between the ages of 31 and 50 it doubles in size every 4.5 years but this rate reduces subsequently.
History should focus on a number of specific features that are typical of the disease. This should be followed by the International Prostate Symptoms Score (IPSS) to give an assessment of the effect on the quality of life. If surgery seems likely, and bearing in mind the age of most men who present with this condition, further questions to assess fitness for surgery may be in order. This should be followed by examination and special investigations to exclude a number of conditions that can mimic BPH.
- Urinary frequency is often a presenting symptom. Ask how many times a day he needs to void and how often he has to rise at night. Ask also if he passes small or large volumes of urine each time. When enquiring about urinary frequency, it is necessary to distinguish frequent passage of small volumes from polyuria.
- Urinary urgency may occur and manifests as a need to pass urine quickly for fear of incontinence.
- Hesitancy is when he has to stand at the toilet for a while before he can initiate micturition. There is usually a poor stream and dribbling too and he may stop during the act.
- Incomplete bladder emptying gives the sensation of still having urine in the bladder, no matter how often he goes. He may even be able to pass more immediately after he has finished.
- There may be a need to push or strain, increasing the risk of micturition syncope.
International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) is a quantitative and validated technique based on eight questions and a further quality-of-life question. The results are summated to give a figure for the degree of trouble caused by the condition.
The link to the IPSS explains the system and allows the questionnaire to be used within the consultation. The results are scored and severity of the symptoms is classified according to the score:
Interpretation of IPSS score
|Classification||mild symptoms||moderate symptoms||severe symptoms|
- Examination of the abdomen includes checking for a palpable bladder. This may indicate chronic outflow obstruction or a neurogenic bladder. To exclude the latter, an enquiry about motor or sensory loss along with checking knee and ankle jerks and plantar responses should suffice. Obviously, any further abnormalities require a full neurological history and examination.
- Digital rectal examination (DRE) includes noting the tone of the anal sphincter and the pelvic floor. It may be poor with a neurogenic bladder. The size of the prostate is assessed. Urologists report their findings in terms of the size of the prostate, a normal gland in a young adult weighing about 20 g. A useful guide for those less familiar with prostates is that a finger's breadth represents about 15 to 20 g and so a gland that is three fingers in breadth across is 45 to 60 g. Symptoms are unusual below two fingers in breadth. It is also important to note the texture and contour of the gland. It should be firm but not hard, and smooth without nodules. The median sulcus should be clearly defined. A gland that is hard rather than firm, nodular and lacks a clear median sulcus suggests carcinoma of prostate.
- If an elderly person is likely to need surgery a brief check of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems is also needed.
- Check urine by dipstick and send MSU for microscopy and culture.
- Routine blood tests include:
- U&E and creatinine
- If the prostate is malignant and has metastasised to bone.
- In an elderly person it may represent undiagnosed Paget's disease of bone.
- Acid phosphatase used to be used to assess for carcinoma of prostate but it is elevated for several days after rectal examination and is less reliable than prostate specific antigen (PSA) and technically difficult to assay. Nowadays it is largely of historical interest.
- PSA is elevated with a large, benign prostate. Experts consider that gentle DRE is unlikely to raise the PSA result.
A combination of clinical examination and PSA levels is a better way of attempting to differentiate between a benign and malignant prostate. It is also preferable to relate normal PSA to age:
PSA Cut-off (ng/mL)
|70 and over||>5.0|
Patients (and sometimes doctors) expect a test to give a simple affirmative or negative answer and so a booklet to help understand the PSA test may be of value. A high result may occur in benign disease and may be associated with an increased risk of having LUTS requiring treatment.
- Abdominal ultrasound or intravenous urography may be required.
- Ultrasound examination of the prostate may be used to assess abnormal areas and possibly to guide needle biopsy.
- Further investigations that may possibly be required include assessment of urine flow rate. It should be used as a baseline before embarking on any treatment, whether medical or surgical. The maximal flow rate (Qmax) is the single best measurement but a low Qmax does not help to differentiate between obstruction and poor bladder contractility. More detailed analysis requires a pressure flow study. A Qmax value over 15 mL/s is usually considered normal. A Qmax below 7 mL/s is accepted as low. Results can vary according to effort and volume and so the usual compromise is to obtain at least two readings with at least 150 mL of urine each time.
- Residual bladder volume is measured immediately after voiding. It can be estimated by passing a catheter and measuring the volume but ultrasound is comfortable, non-invasive and accurate.
- Pressure studies are rather invasive but may be necessary if there is suspected bladder neck obstruction. A voiding pressure above 60 cm water with a Qmax of under 15 mL/s is regarded as diagnostic.
- Endoscopy may be required. A flexible cystoscope can be used as an outpatient procedure with a topical anaesthetic gel. It takes several minutes and may be useful if urethral stricture is suspected. This may follow prolonged indwelling catheter or gonococcal urethritis. It may also be used if a lesion in the bladder is suspected.
- Carcinoma of prostate
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Interstitial cystitis
- Bladder tumours
- Bladder stones
- Bladder trauma
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Detrusor instability
- Chronic prostatitis
- Neurogenic bladder
- Radiation cystitis
- Urethral strictures
See also separate article Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men.
- If symptoms are minimal, 'watchful waiting' (WW) is the most judicious option, provided that malignancy has been excluded. One study found that WW was more readily used by specialist than by primary care physicians. The three key components which seem to contribute to the effectiveness of this approach are reassurance, education and monitoring.
- Other management does not always have to be surgical and a number of drugs have proved useful to control the condition and they have been reviewed.
- A trial of medical therapy may still be followed by surgery if required.
- Irrespective of the mode of management chosen after discussion with the patient, there should be periodic follow-up to assess progress, as the natural history is a tendency for symptoms to worsen.
- Complications, as discussed at the end, may necessitate referral, even as an emergency.
- There is some evidence supporting the use of lifestyle advice along with other modalities of treatment. BPH has been related to factors such as obesity and thus it is probably good to counsel patients on healthy diet regimens and involvement in exercise programmes if possible.
- Alpha adrenergic blockers reduce the tone in the muscle of the neck of the bladder. They should be offered to men with moderate-to-severe voiding symptoms (corresponding to an IPSS of 8 or more). There are alpha-1 receptors that are subdivided into types 1a, 1b and 1c. The alpha-1a is predominant in the prostate, bladder neck and urethra and the most selective drug available is tamsulosin. Less selective alpha-blockers include doxazocin, terazocin, prazosin, alfuzosin and indoramin. The less specific effects may sometimes be beneficial. For example, if the patient has BPH and hypertension, one drug may be beneficial for both.
- 5-alpha reductase inhibitor (5-ARI) drugs block the synthesis of dihydrotestosterone from testosterone and can reduce symptoms - eg, finasteride and dutasteride. They do work but it may take several months before benefit is noted. Unlike alpha adrenergic blockers, they have been shown to reduce the long-term risk (>1 year) of acute retention or need for surgery. They should be offered to men with LUTS and a prostate estimated to be larger than 30 g or PSA greater than 1.4 ng/mL and a high risk of progression.
- For patients with bothersome moderate-to-severe LUTS not responding to monotherapy and with a prostate estimated to be larger than 30 g or PSA greater than 1.4 ng/mL, consider an alpha-blocker plus a 5-ARI. Treatment should be continued for at least one year.
- There are a number of dietary supplements that are used in BPH. They are not available on FP10 but may be bought by the patient. Establishing an evidence base for the effectiveness of these products has been difficult due to variations in methodological techniques. One review of the literature reported some evidence for the effectiveness of beta-sitosterol, Pygeum africanum and Cernilton® but not for several other compounds.
Certain caveats should be observed:
- Avoid alpha-blockers in those with postural hypotension of micturition syncope.
- 5-ARIs may have an adverse effect on sexual performance and direct questioning about sexual history is needed. Problems include decreased libido, ejaculation disorder and erectile dysfunction. Generally, adverse effects are less than with alpha-blockers.
- Studies suggest that alpha-blockers continue to exert efficacy for at least four years.
- Due to their slow onset of action, 5-ARIs should be continued for many years.
Surgery is usually reserved for those with a large prostate or failure to respond to an adequate trial of medical therapy.
- Surgery is required if there is acute urinary retention, failed voiding trials, recurrent gross haematuria, UTI, renal insufficiency due to obstruction or failure of medical treatment.
- Open prostatectomy - transurethral vaporisation of the prostate (TUVP) - is reserved for those with a prostate larger than 75 g, bladder stones or bladder diverticula and patients who cannot be positioned for transurethral surgery. The inner core of the prostate adenoma is shelled out, leaving the peripheral zone behind. There may be significant blood loss requiring transfusion. Open prostatectomy usually has excellent results in terms of improvement of urinary flow and urinary symptoms.
- Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is now the standard technique. A working sheath is placed in the urethra through which a hand-held device with an attached wire loop is placed. A cutting diathermy is run through the loop so that it can be used to shave away prostatic tissue. When successful, it is an excellent operation that does not involve entering the abdomen but it can have complications. Bleeding may be difficult to control. Irrigating fluid may be absorbed into the circulation via cut veins. An indwelling catheter is required until bleeding has stopped. Urethral stricture can occur. There can be retrograde ejaculation after operation or damage to the nerves can cause erectile dysfunction.
- Holmium laser enucleation of the prostate (HoLEP) is equally effective, has a lower morbidity rate and is being considered as first choice where available.
- Minimally invasive therapies usually involve heat destruction of prostatic tissue. Via the urethra, energy is transferred to destroy tissue, in the form of laser, microwaves, radiofrequency waves, high-intensity ultrasound and high-voltage electrical energy.
- Estimated prostate size smaller than 30 g: transurethral incision of the prostate (TUIP)or transurethral needle ablation (TUNA) can be offered as an alternative to TURP for patients wishing to avoid or who are unfit for more invasive surgery. Both treatments, however, have a higher recurrence rate than TURP. If the prostate size is larger than 80 g, this narrows the options to TURP, TUVP or HoLEP.
Bladder outlet obstruction can result in:
- Urinary retention: this may be precipitated by anticholinergic drugs, including tricyclic antidepressants, opiates and diuretics.
- Recurrent UTI, especially with incomplete emptying
- Impaired renal function: progression to chronic renal failure is much rarer now.
- Bladder calculi (may present as ongoing LUTS or recurrent infections).
- Haematuria - may be microscopic or macroscopic.
Patients on medical treatment should have symptoms assessed every six months. Every year PSA and DRE should be repeated. A benign prostate can undergo malignant change. In extreme old age, not only is BPH almost invariable but areas that seem to have at least carcinoma in situ are very common. This is probably best managed conservatively, as there is little evidence that an aggressive approach is beneficial.
Indications for referral
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends referral for the following indications:
- Acute retention of urine (admit immediately).
- Acute renal failure (admit immediately).
- Visible haematuria (to be seen in two weeks).
- Suspicion of prostate cancer based on the finding of a nodular or firm prostate, or a raised PSA level, or both (to be seen in two weeks).
- Culture-negative dysuria (to be seen in two weeks).
- Chronic urinary retention with overflow or night-time incontinence (to be seen in two weeks).
- Recurrent UTI.
- Microscopic haematuria.
- Failure to respond to treatment in primary care with poor quality of life as assessed by the IPSS.
Further reading & references
- Michel MC; The forefront for novel therapeutic agents based on the pathophysiology of lower urinary tract dysfunction: alpha-blockers in the treatment of male voiding dysfunction - how do they work and why do they differ in tolerability? J Pharmacol Sci. 2010;112(2):151-7. Epub 2010 Feb 4.
- Elterman DS, Barkin J, Kaplan SA; Optimizing the management of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Ther Adv Urol. 2012 Apr;4(2):77-83.
- Carballido J, Fourcade R, Pagliarulo A, et al; Can benign prostatic hyperplasia be identified in the primary care setting using only simple tests? Results of the Diagnosis IMprovement in PrimAry Care Trial. Int J Clin Pract. 2011 Sep;65(9):989-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-1241.2011.02735.x. Epub 2011 Jul 7.
- Desiniotis A, Kyprianou N; Advances in the design and synthesis of prazosin derivatives over the last ten years. Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2011 Dec;15(12):1405-18. Epub 2011 Dec 13.
- Guidelines on the Management of Male Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS), incl. Benign Prostatic Obstruction (BPO); European Association of Urology (2012)
- Deters AL et al; Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy, Medscape, Oct 2011
- Wang JY, Liu M, Zhang YG, et al; Relationship between lower urinary tract symptoms and objective measures of benign prostatic hyperplasia: a Chinese survey. Chin Med J (Engl). 2008 Oct 20;121(20):2042-5.
- Simoneau AR, Gerner EW, Nagle R, et al; The effect of difluoromethylornithine on decreasing prostate size and polyamines in men: results of a year-long phase IIb randomized placebo-controlled chemoprevention trial. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Feb;17(2):292-9.
- Prostate cancer, Prodigy (January 2011)
- Watson E, Jenkins L, Bukach C et al; The Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme 2002; Booklet for primary care teams issued by Department of Health
- Rhodes T, Jacobson DJ, McGree ME, et al; Benign prostate specific antigen distribution and associations with urological outcomes in community dwelling black and white men. J Urol. 2012 Jan;187(1):87-91. Epub 2011 Nov 16.
- Wilt TJ, N'Dow J; Benign prostatic hyperplasia. Part 1--diagnosis. BMJ. 2008 Jan 19;336(7636):146-9.
- Lower urinary tract symptoms in men, age-related (including symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia/hypertrophy); Prodigy (August 2010)
- Wilt TJ, N'Dow J; Benign prostatic hyperplasia. Part 2 - management. BMJ. 2008 Jan 26;336(7637):206-10.
- Wei JT, Miner MM, Steers WD, et al; Benign prostatic hyperplasia evaluation and management by urologists and primary care physicians: practice patterns from the observational BPH registry. J Urol. 2011 Sep;186(3):971-6. Epub 2011 Jul 24.
- Chapple CR; Pharmacological therapy of benign prostatic hyperplasia/lower urinary tract symptoms: an overview for the practising clinician. BJU Int. 2004 Sep;94(5):738-44.
- Wang S, Mao Q, Lin Y, et al; Body mass index and risk of BPH: a meta-analysis. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2012 Sep;15(3):265-72. doi: 10.1038/pcan.2011.65. Epub 2011 Dec 20.
- Kim TH, Lim HJ, Kim MS, et al; Dietary supplements for benign prostatic hyperplasia: An overview of systematic reviews. Maturitas. 2012 Aug 7.
- The management of lower urinary tract symptoms in men, NICE Clinical Guideline (May 2010)
- Chang RT, Kirby R, Challacombe BJ; Is there a link between BPH and prostate cancer? Practitioner. 2012 Apr;256(1750):13-6, 2.
- Dovey Z, Corbishley CM, Kirby RS; Prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia: a risk factor for prostate cancer. Can J Urol. 2005 Feb;12 Suppl 1:49-52; discussion 99-100.
- Referral Advice. A guide to appropriate referral from general to specialist services; NICE Clinical Guideline (2001)
- Watson E, Jenkins L, Bukach C et al; The Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme 2002; Booklet for primary care teams issued by Department of Health
|Original Author: Dr Gurvinder Rull||Current Version: Dr Laurence Knott||Peer Reviewer: Dr Helen Huins|
|Last Checked: 02/10/2012||Document ID: 1857 Version: 29||© EMIS|
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