At 11 years of age, Charlie was diagnosed with cancer of his prostate. His initial treatment using oral medication and radiation therapy provided some relief from his clinical signs for several months. However, four months later, Charlie’s prostate tumor began to obstruct his ability to pass urine.
He was immediately admitted to the emergency service at the UGA Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The next day, the Hospital’s Interventional Radiology (IR) service placed a urethral stent. Under general anesthesia, a guidewire was passed up his urethra past the tumor that was obstructive and, after taking several measurements to ensure a precise fit, a stent was deployed within the urethra, pushing the abnormal tumor out of the way. Because this procedure was completed entirely via Charlie’s urethra, no surgical incisions were made.
Within a few hours of the procedure, Charlie could urinate normally again and was sent home the very next day. With the urethral stent placed, Charlie had an additional two months maintaining a good quality of life. Unfortunately, he then began to have additional complications related to his cancer and was humanely euthanized.
Prostatic tumors are one of the most common tumor types of the urinary system in dogs. Most types of cancer that affect the prostate are poorly responsive to traditional therapy. The most frequent cause of death or euthanasia from prostatic or urethral tumors is because of a urinary tract obstruction (tumor causing blockage of the passage of urine out of the bladder), which is a life-threatening complication of the disease. Prior to the creation of the Hospital’s IR service, a dog with a tumor like Charlie’s that obstructs passage of urine would have very limited treatment options.
Urethral stents are metal stents that are deployed within the tumor, pushing the tumor tissue outwards and relieving the obstruction. The procedure is performed under a short general anesthesia, usually for 30 to 45 minutes. Because access is all via the urethra, there are no incisions, making recovery time very fast. Dogs and cats are typically sent home the same day or next day. This treatment does not slow or stop tumor growth but can provide relief from clinical signs for many months. The placement of a stent does not preclude any other treatment that may be recommended by your veterinarian or veterinary oncologist.