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What is TURP?

By Carol Kindle
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is a surgical procedure that is done to reduce the size of the prostate in men. The prostate is part of the male reproductive system and is located just below the bladder. A normal healthy prostate is the size of a walnut and is made up of two lobes. As men age, if the prostate becomes enlarged, the patient may develop a non-cancerous condition known as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). An enlarged prostate can put pressure on the urethra, the canal that carries urine out of the bladder.

After the urethra leaves the bladder, it passes through the middle of the two lobes of the prostate. An enlarged prostate could put pressure on both sides of the urethra making it difficult for the patient to urinate. A patient with any changes in patterns of urination or symptoms of an enlarged prostate may qualify for the TURP procedure. This procedure is not the first choice of treatment for prostate cancer but it can be used to relieve any difficulties in urination in patients with cancer.

During the TURP procedure, the patient is under general anesthesia. The surgeon inserts a rod-shaped instrument known as a resectoscope into the urethra. A resectoscope is similar to a very small telescope and has a lens to visualize the tissue of the bladder and urethra. It also has a loop that is used to resect or cut away extra prostate tissue and enlarge the urethral opening. An electrical current passes through the loop on the resectoscope to allow the surgeon to scrape away the prostate tissue.

Water flows through the resectoscope into the bladder during the TURP procedure, and this water serves to flush away the excess prostate tissue that has been scraped off. This tissue is flushed out through an external port on the resectoscope. The tissue lining the urethra is then cauterized or burned to stop any bleeding.

The patient will likely spend one to two nights in the hospital. A catheter will be in place and it is not unusual to see blood in the catheter shortly after surgery. Urine should return to a normal color before the catheter is removed.

Even though there is no surgical incision during the TURP procedure, the patient will need a few days to a week to recover. During recovery, there should be no strenuous activity or heavy lifting. Since the urethral opening is made larger during this surgery, any symptoms or difficulties in urination should be significantly reduced after the surgery.

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Discussion Comments
By Perdido — On Oct 01, 2012

My friend had to take a week off of work after his TURP treatment. He also stopped drinking caffeinated beverages for two months, and when he did start back, he only had a small amount.

He used to drink three cups of coffee a day, so I know this was hard for him. He learned that he would feel a lot better drinking just water, though, so I think that his health actually improved as a result of the restriction.

By lighth0se33 — On Sep 30, 2012

@JackWhack – My dad got a suppository form of pain medication. It was also supposed to prevent spasms that are likely after this type of surgery.

It was a really powerful pain medicine, so the doctor only gave him enough to make it through the first week. I would imagine it would be easy to become addicted to this.

The doctor also gave him an antibiotic to prevent a urinary tract infection. So, he was as comfortable as possible during his recovery.

By Oceana — On Sep 30, 2012

My uncle had the TURP operation. He had been having multiple urinary tract infections, and there was often blood in his urine. The doctor said this was due to his enlarged prostate.

Ironically, he got a urinary tract infection after the surgery because of the catheter. This made recovery more painful than it normally would have been.

By JackWhack — On Sep 29, 2012

TURP surgery sounds very painful! I'm glad that they put patients under general anesthesia before doing it.

So many surgeries these days are being done only under local anesthesia, and the patient is awake. There are some, like TURP surgery, that would just be too traumatic or painful for an alert person to bear, even under local anesthesia.

Do patients get pain medication to take during the recovery period? I would think that they would need pain pills for at least a few days.

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