What is a transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)?

Transurethral needle ablation, also known as TUNA or radiofrequency ablation, is a minimally invasive treatment option used to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia.

During the procedure, radiofrequency needles are placed through the urethra into the area of the prostate that is pressing on the urethra. Radio waves are sent through the needles, into the prostate tissue to destroy prostate tissue. As a result, the prostate shrinks, which allows urine to flow out the urethra.

Who is a candidate for a transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)?

TUNA is an option for patients who are suffering from symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Symptoms may include, an urgent need to urinate, difficulty urinating, more frequent nighttime need to urinate, urinary tract infections or feeling like you can’t completely empty your bladder.

TUNA may also be an option for patients who are not able to urinate due to a blockage that may be caused by:

  • Persistent urinary tract infections
  • Bladder or kidney damage
  • Bladder stones

Your Mercy Health doctor will evaluate your case to determine if you are a candidate for this procedure or other minimally invasive procedures to treat BPH.

Benefits of transurethral needle ablation

Advantages of TUNA over other treatments for BPH include:

  • Lower risk of bleeding - Patients who are on blood-thinning medication may do better on this treatment because the risk of bleeding is less than with more invasive procedures.
  • Shorter hospital stays - can be done on an outpatient basis
  • Patients need less anesthesia

Risks of a transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)

Although TUNA is a relatively safe procedure, complications can occur. Complications may include:

  • Chronic inflammation of the prostate, which could cause painful urination or frequent need to urinate
  • Difficulty urinating for a few days after the procedure
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Erectile dysfunction, while rare, can occur
  • Need to be treated again

What to expect during a transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)

TUNA is typically performed in your doctor’s office under local anesthesia.

During the procedure, a cystoscopy with a needle connected to the end is inserted through the penis into the prostate. A cystoscope is a surgical instrument with a light on the end that allows the doctor to see the urethra. Low level radio waves are sent through the needles into various areas of the prostate gland to destroy excess cells.

Your doctor will determine how many needles need to be placed into the prostate and how long each one will be placed at each location based on the size and shape of the prostate. Typically, four to six needles are used and are held on each location for as long as three minutes.

Recovery from a transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)

Most patients need to have a catheter in place for one to three days post-surgery and will need to take an antibiotic to prevent infection.

After the procedure, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Urinary symptoms such as urgent need to urinate or need to get up frequently during the night
  • Burning sensation after urinating that can last as long as a week
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Difficulty holding urine (incontinence)

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