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 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 with only a few minutes of treatment each day. The foundation then supported a small clinical trial in men to see if the positive results translated to humans. After treatment with PEMF, men had significantly reduced symptoms and prostate volume, although the reduction was not as extensive as in the canine model (see Further reading for links). The results of these studies offer hope for a non-invasive treatment for enlarged prostate.
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, although the etiology is not precisely known. Traditional treatment options for men with BPH include medications such as alpha-blockers or surgical interventions. Side effects of treatments may include the inability to ejaculate, retrograde ejaculation (semen flows backwards into the bladder), erectile dysfunction, and even loss of bladder control. Some men affected have reported that taking saw palmetto, an herbal supplement, gives them relief but clinical evidence for its effectiveness is not conclusive. Clearly, effective and less invasive treatments for this common disease are needed.
The 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.
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.
The positive effects of PEMF on BPH in dogs, with no side effects, supports its use as a noninvasive, simple and effective treatment.
Only two studies had previously 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.
The Parsemus Foundation collaborated with Drs. Isidori, Tenuta, Tarsitano and others from Sapienza University in Rome on a small trial using a similar treatment regimen and device as used in the successful canine study. After one month of treatment with a Magcell® Microcirc PEMF device, the 27 patients had significantly decreased symptoms and prostate volume, resulting in a median decrease of 5.4%. Men with moderate-severe lower urinary tract symptoms and without metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist) benefited more from the treatment. The study was recently published in Andrology.
While more research is needed in men to optimize the results, those 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 PEMF devices and try it. The devices used in the studies were 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 and settings (although the Microcirc is not available in the US yet).
The mechanism of action of PEMF on canine BPH is not exactly known and could involve several modalities. The electromagnetic field is produced by a device that reduces inflammation by promoting growth of new blood vessels, dilation of blood vessels, and tissue remodeling. The overall effect is reduction in tissue hypoxia. 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.
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
Tenuta M, Tarsitano MG, Mazzotta P et al. (2020). “Therapeutic use of pulsed electromagnetic field therapy reduces prostate volume and lower urinary tract symptoms in benign prostatic hyperplasia.” Andrology. Feb 23. (Available online). Press release.
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)