PSA and Prostate Biopsies


My husband ran into a friend on the golf course yesterday and mentioned that he had missed seeing him.  That golfer had quite a chilling story to tell.  A few weeks ago, his doctor recommended that he have a PSA test.  His levels were considered “high” so he was sent off to the urologist’s office.  That specialist suggested he needed a prostate biopsy to rule out cancer.  It was to be a routine procedure, so our golfer friend agreed to it.  Within 2 days of having it done, he was rushed back to the ER and diagnosed with a massive infection and spent nearly 10 days in the ICU close to death any number of times.

According to a story on NPR,s Morning Edition, that same scenario is being repeated across the country.  Well over a million U.S. men are thought to get prostate biopsies every year, but specialists are worrying about an increasing risk of complications.  Namely, an especially hard-to-treat bloodstream infection that can send men to the ICU and require weeks of heavy-duty antibiotic treatment.

Dr. Robert Nam of the University of Toronto published a study in the Journal of Urology that documents a steady increase in infections serious enough to require hospitalization among all men undergoing prostate biopsies.  “The rate went from 1 percent to 4 percent in a 10-year period,” Nam says.  If one million men are undergoing prostate biopsies, that is suggesting that 40,000 could be suffering serious infections.

Dr. Robert Nadler of Northwestern says the infection risk is causing a lot of soul-searching about prostate biopsies.  He says, “This is forcing urologists to really step back and take a look and say, ‘Does this patient really need a biopsy?’ ”

© 2010-2011 Melinda Coker

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