Most men aged over 60 have some form of enlargement of the prostate gland and around 13,000 men in the UK are thought to have non-cancerous enlargement known as benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). This condition can make it difficult to pass urine as the swollen prostate presses against the urethra, the tube that drains urine from the body. The negative impact on lifestyle can be significant for some men.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has now recommended a new laser treatment for BPH for NHS patients. GreenLight laser prostatectomy involves passing a laser through the urethra to the prostate gland and then concentrating the laser beams precisely onto the area of excess tissue to vaporise it using intense heat. The procedure is also known as photo-selective vaporisation (PVP) – not to be confused with post-vasectomy pain syndrome.

Until now, treatment for BPH has been an operation called a trans-urethral resection of the prostate (TURP) to remove the overgrown tissue. While TURP is effective in treating BPH, it means an overnight stay in hospital for patients and carries higher risks than GreenLight laser prostatectomy.

While there are still risks associated with GreenLight laser therapy, the procedure is much less invasive. Patients may still find it difficult to pass urine after laser treatment and may experience dry orgasm but the risks of these are lower than with traditional TURP. Post-operative complications include the development of a painful stricture or the regrowth of the prostate and revision treatment being needed, but these are less likely to occur following laser treatment than TURP.

Andrew Clayton of Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team comments: "The NICE recommendation is good news for both patients and the NHS. The reduced risks of the minimally invasive laser therapy compared with traditional resection of the prostate and avoiding the need for an overnight hospital stay are obvious benefits for patients. Laser therapy can also deliver estimated cost savings of around £3 million for the NHS by freeing up overnight beds - although TURP is still likely to be preferred for men with particularly severe symptoms or gross prostate enlargement.”