Me and my operation: How a high-speed water jet shrank my enlarged prostate

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Many men over 50 have urinary problems caused by an enlarged prostate, but now a high-speed water jet can treat them. Paul Griffiths, 67, a semi-retired estimating engineer from Keynsham, near Bristol, had it done, as he tells Carol Davis. 

The patient 

Paul Griffiths, 67, a semi-retired estimating engineer from Keynsham, near Bristol

Paul Griffiths, 67, a semi-retired estimating engineer from Keynsham, near Bristol

Since my 50s, I’ve had to get up in the night to go to the loo — it could be four or five times if I’d been out for a drink.

After about three years I sought help. It was getting annoying and disturbing my sleep. My GP said it was probably benign prostate overgrowth, which happens as men age: the prostate, a walnut-shaped gland surrounding the urethra (the tube which carries urine out of the body) grows and can block flow. He examined me and referred me to a specialist for tests.

A few weeks later an ultrasound scan showed my prostate was very large — they didn’t give me a measurement but called it a ‘monster’. They said it was pressing on my urethra, so I couldn’t empty my bladder properly, which is why I had to keep going to the loo.

My consultant recommended transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), where they cut away overgrown prostate tissue. But the risks included erectile dysfunction. I couldn’t bear the thought. I didn’t want the physical side of my relationship with my wife Susan to end.

Instead, I was prescribed a drug, finasteride, to shrink the prostate. But it, too, had side-effects. It made me grow and I couldn’t produce semen, so my sex life was affected anyway.

I did some reading and heard about a new treatment being trialled at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. Called Aquabeam, it uses a high‑powered water jet to remove excess tissue (file image)

I did some reading and heard about a new treatment being trialled at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey. Called Aquabeam, it uses a high‑powered water jet to remove excess tissue (file image)

I had fewer erections, and my wife started wondering if I had another woman.

After three years of this, I stopped taking it and just lived with the frequent urination, getting up at night for the loo and going around 15 times a day. As a result, it was hard to sit through anything and I stopped going to the theatre or cinema.

 Did you know?

Stress at work can cause painful joints. A new study in the journal Cogent Psychology, found that out of 200 people, those who reported having the biggest workloads also had more pain in up to 12 areas of the body. 

One theory is that high mental workloads lead to fatigue and poor sleep, which in turn causes musculoskeletal problems. 

I’d take ages at the urinal as my bladder would never fully empty. But I didn’t want to be seen as loitering, so I started using a cubicle in public loos instead.

I was referred back to the consultant. Again, they suggested TURP but I still couldn’t face it.

I did some reading and heard about a new treatment being trialled at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey.

Called Aquabeam, it uses a high‑powered water jet to remove excess tissue. It was less risky than TURP, so I could retain my sexual function.

I wrote to the consultant running the trial and pushed my GP for a referral. I had an appointment with the surgeon, Neil Barber, in September 2017.

After scans, he said I’d be suitable for the next trial. I couldn’t wait. I finally had the hour-long procedure under general anaesthetic in May 2018. I was woozy afterwards and had a catheter for two days. But when it came out, I could empty my bladder properly, just like when I was a boy. It was amazing!

Now I can enjoy a few pints and still sleep through — and our love life is better than ever.

'I’d take ages at the urinal as my bladder would never fully empty. But I didn’t want to be seen as loitering, so I started using a cubicle in public loos instead'

'I’d take ages at the urinal as my bladder would never fully empty. But I didn’t want to be seen as loitering, so I started using a cubicle in public loos instead' 

 The surgeon  

Neil Barber is a consultant urological surgeon at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust in Surrey and Weymouth Street Hospital in London.

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