New treatment for enlarged prostate

Finally a noninvasive, drug-free treatment for BPH

Enlarged prostate is a common problem in older males (both humans and non-humans!). The Parsemus Foundation sponsored a study by Dr. Raffaella Leoci to investigate a potential new non-invasive treatment in dogs with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The pulsed electromagnetic frequency (PEMF) therapy was very effective at reducing the size of the prostate gland and we expect that it is relevant for human use too. The study was published in the journal The Prostate (see Further reading for links).  The foundation has also supported a small clinical trial  in men to see if the positive results in dogs translate to humans. Read on for more information on this novel approach.

What is benign prostatic hyperplasia?

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is an age-related enlargement of the prostate gland. BPH is one of the most frequent medical problems in elderly males. In humans, it can result in urinary tract problems, obstruction of the urethra, sexual dysfunction and blood in the urine. One of the most frequent symptoms is having to get up to use the bathroom multiple times during the night. Older dogs also commonly have BPH and there is little difference from humans in anatomy, physiology and symptoms of this disease. The most common clinical sign of BPH in dogs is bloody fluid dripping from the penis not associated with urination. In severe cases it can obstruct the colon and result in constipation.

BPH results from urogenital aging. Recent studies suggest that an age-related impairment of the blood supply to the lower urinary tract plays a role in the development of BPH and thus may be a contributing factor in the pathogenesis of BPH.

Simple and effective treatment for canine prostate disease could also help humans

The new method used in the study to treat dogs with BPH was pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF). PEMF is a noninvasive method that generates both an electrical and magnetic field and is used in orthopedics, neurology, and urology. It has been reported to have an anti-inflammatory effect and increases healing and blood circulation. The idea of using this method for BPH is to improve prostate blood flow and reduce the size of the prostate gland.

Magcell Vetri

The study used a Magcell® Vetri device from Physiomed Elektromedizin AG, Germany

The study included 20 dogs with BPH. They received treatment with PEMF for 5 minutes, twice a day for three weeks. The device was simply held over the skin where the prostate is located. The study used a Magcell® Vetri device from Physiomed Elektromedizin AG, Germany.

An average 57% reduction in the size of the prostate resulted from PEMF treatment in only three weeks, a remarkable improvement. There was no interference with semen quality, testosterone levels or libido. Doppler parameters showed a reduction of peripheral blood resistances and a progressive reduction in resistance of the blood flow in the dorsal branch of the prostatic artery.

Graph of decrease in prostate size

Decrease in prostate volume in 20 dogs treated with pulsed electromagnetic field therapy. T0=baseline, T1-T3=weeks 1-3 after treatment. Prostate volume was significantly lower than baseline at each week of treatment

The efficacy of PEMF on BPH in dogs, with no side effects, suggests that it might be a great treatment in humans. The study also supports the hypothesis that impairment of blood supply to the lower urinary tract may be a causative factor in the development of BPH.

How does pulsed electromagnetic field therapy work?

The mechanism of action of PEMF on canine BPH is not exactly known and could involve several modalities. It may have an effect on nitric oxide or directly on inflammation. Recent research has shown that PEMF is mediated by an increase in nitric oxide synthesis, which may contribute to the pathogenesis of BPH. By reducing inflammation PEMF may prevent complications or may play a role in reducing changes linked to BPH and related conditions. By producing an increase in blood circulation, PEMF may also help to prevent secondary complications caused by reduced arterial blood flow such as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland) and improve BPH symptoms.

Next steps

Only two studies have investigated the use of PEMF to treat BPH symptoms in men, both with positive results using an in-office magnetotherapy device. A 2011 study in 20 humans indicated that clinical symptoms of BPH were significantly reduced after PEMF application and that the effect lasted at least 12 months. A second 2017 study in 60 men compared PEMF therapy with and without exercise to controls (not receiving treatment). The scientists found significantly improved urinary symptoms with both treatment groups.

Further clinical trials could provide additional information on the efficacy of this treatment in humans. The Parsemus Foundation is supporting a small proof-of-concept study to determine if the same type of handheld device that was used in dogs will also show positive results in humans.

Since clinical trials are expensive and take time, some men who are particularly bothered by BPH symptoms, haven’t had success with herbal medicine (like saw palmetto) and don’t want surgery may decide in conjunction with their doctors to get one of the devices and try it. The device used in the dog study was made by Physiomed Elektromedizin AG in Germany. They offer the Magcell Microcirc (for humans) and Magcell Vetri (for animals). Both appear to have the same power (although the Microcirc is not available in the US yet).

Further reading

Elgohary, H. M., Tantawy, S. A. (2017). “Pulsed electromagnetic field with or without exercise therapy in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia.” J Phys Ther Sci, 29(8), 1305–1310. (Available online)

Giannakopoulos XK, Giotis C, Karkabounas SCh, Verginadis II, Simos YV, Peschos D, Evangelou AM. (2011). “Effects of pulsed electromagnetic fields on benign prostate hyperplasia” Int Urol Nephrol 43(4):955-60. (Available online)

Leoci R, Aiudi G, Silvestre F, Lissner E, Lacalandra GM (2014). “Effect of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy on prostate volume and vascularity in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: A pilot study in a canine model.” The Prostate. June 9, 2014. (Available online)  Press release on EurekAlert

Review of BPH treatments (not including PEMF):
Fouad Aoun, Quentin Marcelis, and Thierry Roumeguère (2015). “Minimally invasive devices for treating lower urinary tract symptoms in benign prostate hyperplasia: technology update”. Res Rep Urol 2015; 7: 125–136. (Available online)

Personal story of one man’s success in using the Magcell Microcirc to treat benign protastatic hyperplasia. (Available online)