Prostate biopsy complications soar, causing hospitalizations and death

Friday, September 23, 2011 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: prostate, biopsy, health news

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(NaturalNews) Prostate biopsies are outpatient procedures and performed so often they must be safe, right? You'd better think twice about that assumption. In fact, if you are a man considering a prostate biopsy, you'd better keep reading -- because it turns out these procedures are not as safe as they are hyped to be. According to a study just published in the online edition of The Journal of Urology, prostate biopsies are landing more and more men in the hospital where they are dying, not from any cancer that was discovered but from what happens to them while hospitalized.

Here are the disturbing facts: using Medicare records, Johns Hopkins scientists performed the largest analysis ever of American men age 65 and older who underwent prostate biopsies over the last 20 years. In all, the researchers examined the number of biopsy-related complications that resulted in hospitalization of more than 17,400 of these men from 1991 to 2007. They then compared these rates to a group of 134,977 men (matched for age and other characteristics) during the same time period who did not undergo a prostate biopsy.

Their findings? Prostate biopsies were linked with approximately a 7 percent rate of hospitalization within 30 days of the procedure compared to a 2.9 percent hospitalization rate among the control group of men who didn't have prostate biopsies.

What's more, the research team found that having a prostate biopsy resulted in men being more than twice as likely to need hospitalization in the immediate post-procedure period. And once hospitalized, the men were at an increased risk of serious complications including bleeding and infection, flare-ups of underlying medical conditions (such as heart failure or breathing disorders) and death.

The researchers emphasized in their paper that their new data should remind doctors to carefully consider the risks and benefits of biopsy for individual patients before performing biopsies to look for cancer in the prostate. Surprisingly, the scientists also found it necessary to warn physicians about some common sense facts -- that the medical staff should be taking precautions to avoid complications, including working to prevent infections. It's no wonder they added the last caveat when you consider the Johns Hopkins investigators found that men hospitalized with biopsy-related infections had a 12 times greater risk of dying compared to men who did not have biopsies.

Prostate biopsy plus superbugs can equal death

The researchers noted there has been a steady rise in the rate of serious infection-related complications involving prostate biopsies over the past couple of decades. When their investigation began in 1991, less than 0.5 percent of men were admitted to the hospital because of an infection diagnosed after a prostate biopsy was performed. This infection rate remained stable until 2000. But that year rates of infection-related complications began to increase to more than 1.2 percent by 2007. The infections are often serious, too, and may implicate antibiotic resistance germs known as superbugs.

"Antibiotics are routinely given to men at the time of biopsy, and the fact that infections serious enough to cause hospital admissions have been on the rise makes us think that these types of complications are occurring because of a steady increase in antimicrobial resistance rates in America," Edward Schaeffer, M.D., Ph.D., a Johns Hopkins urologist and oncologist and the study's senior investigator, said in a press statement.

Co-author H. Ballentine Carter, M.D., professor of urology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, added: "Based on these findings, we believe that more needs to be done to reduce potential complications. It is important for urologists to determine if a biopsy is appropriate for an individual patient and also if the patient is at increased risk for a biopsy-related complication."

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