What Is TURP?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: December 2023 | Last updated: February 2024

A transurethral resection of the prostate, otherwise known as TURP, is a procedure used to treat symptoms of advanced prostate cancer as well as BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). BPH is the non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland that typically occurs due to the natural aging process. The prostate grows with age, and can eventually cause symptoms such as an increased need to urinate or difficulty urinating.

These symptoms are often the result of the prostate pushing on the urethra, the tube that passes through the prostate gland and carries urine out of the body. Similar symptoms can occur for individuals with advanced prostate cancer if a tumor grows within the prostate and begins to push on the urethra.

What is a transurethral resection of the prostate?

In either case, TURP involves removing the part of the prostate that is pushing against the urethra to alleviate symptoms.1

How TURP affects advanced prostate cancer

TURP is not used as a curative treatment option for prostate cancer. Instead, it is used as a palliative care measure, meaning a treatment designed to treat or reduce the symptoms of an underlying condition, but not to treat the condition itself. When a prostate cancer tumor grows to the point that it begins pushing on the urethra, bladder, or urinary issues may occur. By removing the part of the cancer or prostate that is now pushing on the tube, some of these symptoms may be alleviated.

How the procedure works

The procedure is done under general anesthesia or spinal epidural and takes about an hour to complete. The inner part of the prostate gland, or the cancerous tumor, that is pressing on the urethra is destroyed using electricity or heat. A resectoscope (combined visual and surgical scope) is inserted into the tip of the penis through the urethra and into the prostate without making an incision into the skin. This scope has a camera on the end to help find and identify the tissue around the urethra that needs to be removed.

What can you expect after having TURP surgery?

After the procedure, a catheter may be in place for one to several days in order to help drain the bladder of urine completely. Hospital stay post-procedure is typically only 1-3 days and recovery to performing normal activities typically occurs within 1-2 weeks. A follow-up visit will be scheduled within a few weeks of the procedure to discuss the results of the procedure. Your doctor may recommend that you abstain from sexual activity or physical activity for several weeks post-procedure, as well as to drink plenty of fluid or eat high-fiber foods.1-3

Potential complications and side effects

The most common serious risks of undergoing TURP include:

  • Reaction to the anesthesia
  • Infection
  • Bleeding or blood clots

The most common side effects of the procedure include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Mild burning during urination or increased frequency of urination
  • Trouble emptying the bladder fully
  • Not producing semen when ejaculating (which could lead to fertility issues)
  • Bladder or urinary tract infection
  • Erectile dysfunction

These are not all the possible side effects of TURP. Talk to your doctor about what to expect or if you experience any changes that concern you during treatment with TURP. Many of these side effects are temporary, and their frequency may increase with age. Your provider will be able to determine what side effects or risks relate to your specific situation.2,3

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Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.