Prostate biopsy associated with significant risks, according to new studies

October 1, 2010

Authors from two recent studies discuss the risks men face in undergoing biopsy as well as the steps urologists are taking to minimize these risks.

Two recent studies in the Journal of Urology have highlighted significant risks associated with prostate biopsy. In one, a mortality rate of .09% was observed for men undergoing the procedure. In the other, a higher incidence of erectile dysfunction was seen in men receiving biopsies. In this interview, Robert Nam, MD, and Christian Pavlovich, MD, authors representing the two study groups, discuss the risks men face in undergoing biopsy as well as the steps urologists are taking to minimize these risks. Dr. Nam is associate professor of surgery at the University of Toronto. Dr. Pavlovich is associate professor of urology at Johns Hopkins, and director of urologic oncology at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore. They were interviewed by Urology Times Editorial Consultant Philip M. Hanno, MD, MPH, professor of urology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Even with this knowledge, however, I fear that we tend to gloss over the potential for complications when discussing prostate biopsy with patients. We know that there are risks. We're doing our best to prevent some of them with appropriate antibiotic coverage. We keep a close eye on our patients and counsel them to come in immediately for heavy bleeding or symptoms of infection.

At the same time, the consent process and our method of routine clinical practice do not generally impart the sense of that risk to the patient.