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Thulium laser transurethral vaporesection versus transurethral resection of the prostate for benign prostatic obstruction: the UNBLOCS RCT

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Tobias Page



This is the final published version of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment, 2020.

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BACKGROUND: Transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) is the standard operation for benign prostatic obstruction (BPO). Thulium laser transurethral vaporesection of the prostate (ThuVARP) vaporises and resects the prostate using a technique similar to TURP. The small amount of existing literature suggests that there may be potential advantages of ThuVARP over TURP. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether or not the outcomes from ThuVARP are equivalent to the outcomes from TURP in men with BPO treated in the NHS. DESIGN: A multicentre, pragmatic, randomised controlled parallel-group trial, with an embedded qualitative study and economic evaluation. SETTING: Seven UK centres - four university teaching hospitals and three district general hospitals. PARTICIPANTS: Men aged ≥ 18 years who were suitable to undergo TURP, presenting with bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) or urinary retention secondary to BPO. INTERVENTIONS: Patients were randomised 1 : 1 to receive TURP or ThuVARP and remained blinded. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Two co-primary outcomes - patient-reported International Prostate Symptom Score (IPSS) and clinical measure of maximum urine flow rate (Qmax) at 12 months post surgery. RESULTS: In total, 410 men were randomised, 205 to each arm. The two procedures were equivalent in terms of IPSS [adjusted mean difference 0.28 points higher for ThuVARP (favouring TURP), 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.92 to 1.49 points]. The two procedures were not equivalent in terms of Qmax (adjusted mean difference 3.12 ml/second in favour of TURP, 95% CI 0.45 to 5.79 ml/second), with TURP deemed superior. Surgical outcomes, such as complications and blood transfusion rates, and hospital stay were similar for both procedures. Patient-reported urinary and sexual symptoms were also similar between the arms. Qualitative interviews indicated similar patient experiences with both procedures. However, 25% of participants in the ThuVARP arm did not undergo their randomised allocation, compared with 2% of participants in the TURP arm. Prostate cancer was also detected less frequently from routine histology after ThuVARP (65% lower odds of detection) in an exploratory analysis. The adjusted mean differences between the arms were similar for secondary care NHS costs (£9 higher for ThuVARP, 95% CI -£359 to £376) and quality-adjusted life-years (0.01 favouring TURP, 95% CI -0.04 to 0.01). LIMITATIONS: Complications were recorded in prespecified categories; those not prespecified were excluded owing to variable reporting. Preoperative Qmax and IPSS data could not be collected for participants with indwelling catheters, making adjustment for baseline status difficult. CONCLUSIONS: TURP was superior to ThuVARP in terms of Qmax, although both operations resulted in a Qmax considered clinically successful. ThuVARP also potentially resulted in lower detection rates of prostate cancer as a result of the smaller volume of tissue available for histology. Length of hospital stay after ThuVARP, anticipated to be a key benefit, was equal to that after TURP in this trial. Overall, both ThuVARP and TURP were effective procedures for BPO, with minor benefits in favour of TURP. Therefore, the results suggest that it may be appropriate that new treatment alternatives continue to be compared with TURP. FUTURE WORK: Longer-term follow-up to assess reoperation rates over time, and research into the comparative effectiveness of ThuVARP and TURP in large prostates. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN00788389. FUNDING: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 24, No. 41. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.An enlarged prostate can make it difficult, or even impossible, for a man to pass urine by blocking the urine flow from the bladder. This can cause significant problems, and 25,000 men in the UK each year are treated with an operation to relieve their symptoms. The standard operation [transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP)], which uses electricity to shave off the enlarged prostate, is successful, but it can have some complications. There is some evidence to suggest that laser surgery can lead to less blood loss and a shorter stay in hospital, but laser operations can be difficult for surgeons to carry out. This trial has looked at a procedure using a new type of laser called thulium, which uses a very similar surgical technique to TURP and has shown promising results so far. A total of 410 men needing a prostate operation received either TURP or a laser operation. Participants were unaware of which operation they received until the end of the study to ensure a fair comparison. Seven hospitals across the UK were involved over 4 years. The trial mainly assessed the benefits of the operations using a urinary symptom questionnaire completed by participants, and by measuring the speed of passing urine after surgery. Overall, both procedures achieved positive results, and participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the outcomes. Participants who had either operation reported a similar improvement in urinary symptoms in their questionnaires. However, although both operations did a good job of improving the speed of passing urine, TURP was better. Participants experienced few complications, and the complications that did occur were similar after both operations, including levels of bleeding and time spent in hospital. The cost of the two operations to the NHS was also similar. Overall, we concluded that both operations are suitable for patients with prostate enlargement, with TURP showing some minor additional benefits.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Worthington J, Lane JA, Taylor H, Young G, Noble SM, Abrams P, Ahern A, Brookes ST, Cotterill N, Johnson L, Khan R, Fernandez AM, Page T, Swami S, Hashim H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Health Technology Assessment

Year: 2020

Volume: 24

Issue: 41

Pages: 1-96

Print publication date: 01/09/2020

Online publication date: 01/09/2020

Acceptance date: 01/02/2019

Date deposited: 11/01/2021

ISSN (print): 1366-5278

ISSN (electronic): 2046-4924

Publisher: National Coordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment


DOI: 10.3310/hta24410

PubMed id: 32901611


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