Harvard Men's Health Watch

Prostate biopsy side effects are common

Complications from prostate biopsies are common but usually not severe, a study in Urology reveals. Participants in the study had biopsies to look for cancer after an abnormal rectal exam or prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test. In a biopsy, a fine needle punches quickly through the rectal wall to remove a tiny sample of prostate tissue for examination under a microscope. Doctors took 12, 18, or 24 samples per participant. Typical problems from biopsy include pain, soreness, and infections. A more serious complication, which may lead to hospital admission, is acute urinary retention, in which a man is temporarily unable to drain his bladder.

Here is what the study found:

  • 40% of the men experienced a complication.

  • The complication rate was as high as 57% in men with 24-sample biopsies.

  • Only 1.2% of the men required hospital admission.

  • 9.1% ended up visiting an emergency room.

  • 6.7% developed acute urinary retention.

Prostate needle biopsy is the only way to diagnose prostate cancer, regardless of PSA test results. The complication rate would vary with the general health of the men involved.

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