Cancer Diagnostic Procedure Linked to Complications

Prostate biopsies result in increased hospitalization

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) When the results from a blood test screening or a digital rectal exam are suspicious, a biopsy is needed to diagnose prostate cancer. Prostate biopsy is a common outpatient procedure (over 1 million performed a year) which could lead to hospitalization and possible complications.

Researchers at the John Hopkins Medical Institutions studied Medicare records of men over 65 from 1991 to 2007 focusing on complication rates. During this time period, researchers determined that patients undergoing biopsy procedures were twice as likely to be hospitalized than patients who did not have a biopsy.

"Ask your oncologist about the risks and benefits of a prostate biopsy."

The study analyzed hospitalization rates of 17,400 patients who underwent prostate biopsy compared to 134,977 patients who did not have the biopsy. While hospital admissions have declined over the past two decades, 6.9% of biopsy patients needed hospitalization due to complications after having had a prostate biopsy. The rate of hospitalization was 2.9% for patients who did have the procedure.

Senior investigator Edward Schaeffer, M.D., Ph.D., states prostate biopsies are an essential part of diagnosing prostate cancer, but patients should understand the risks associated with these common procedures.

Biopsy complications include infection, as well as flare-ups of pre-existing conditions such as heart failures.

The study also found an increasing trend of serious infection-based complications that required hospitalization. In 1991, 0.5% of patients were hospitalized due to an infection after a biopsy, compared to 1.2% in 2007.

Dr. Schaeffer and study co-author H. Ballentine Carter, M.D., professor of urology and oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, urge urologists to determine if a biopsy is appropriate for patients while adhering to medical guidelines. According to study authors, urologists need to take more precaution and help educate patients on the potential risks of prostate biopsies in order to help eliminate these serious complications.

This study will be published in November, 2011 issue of The Journal of Urology

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Review Date: 
October 5, 2011
Last Updated:
October 5, 2011