Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Transurethral Resection of the Prostate (TURP)

TURP is surgery to treat a benign enlargement of the prostate, or BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia). This surgery removes prostate tissue to relieve pressure on the urethra. This helps relieve symptoms, such as:

  • Urinary obstruction

  • Frequent urination

  • Decreased urinary stream

TURP is the most common procedure for the treatment of BPH. But certain other procedures also help relieve BPH symptoms. Your health care provider may do one of these instead of TURP. They include TUIP (transurethral incision of the prostate), TUNA (transurethral needle ablation), laser ablation, microwave therapy, Urolift or Rezum. If you will have one of these procedures, your healthcare provider can tell you more about it. Your preparation and experience during surgery will be similar to TURP.  

Side view cross section of male pelvis showing cystoscope inserted in urethra all the way through penis to just before bladder. Hand is operating instrument in scope to remove pieces of prostate.

Closeup of cystoscope tip in prostate with instrument removing prostate tissue.
Excess prostate tissue is removed during a TURP to let urine flow freely through the urethra.

Preparing for surgery

Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare for your procedure. For instance, you may be asked to stop taking certain medicines a few days before the procedure. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything after the midnight before surgery. Be sure to follow any special instructions you're given. 

During the TURP procedure

  • You will be given medicine (anesthesia) to keep you from feeling pain during the procedure. It may be given into your spine (epidural). This is not meant to put you to sleep, but it will numb the area where the surgery is being done. In some cases, general anesthesia is used. This is to keep you sleeping throughout the surgery. The anesthesia provider (anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist) will talk to you about the pain medicine that is best for you.

  • The surgeon inserts a cystoscope (a thin, telescope-like device) into your urethra. This device lets him or her see the blocked part of the urethra.

  • A cutting device is inserted through the cystoscope. This is used to remove the excess prostate tissue. The cut pieces of tissue collect in the bladder. These pieces are continuously washed away with fluids during the procedure. 

  • The tissue pieces are sent to the lab to be sure they are free of cancer. 

Possible risks and complications of prostate procedures

  • Bleeding

  • Infection

  • Scarring of the urethra

  • Retrograde ejaculation

  • Erectile dysfunction (rare)

  • Absorption of fluid during the procedure (TURP syndrome)

  • Permanent incontinence (very rare)


Retrograde ejaculation

 After some surgical treatments, semen may travel into the bladder instead of out of the penis during ejaculation. This side effect is called retrograde ejaculation. As a result, there may be little or no semen when you ejaculate, which can result in infertility. If you are planning to have children, talk to your healthcare provider before having the TURP procedure. Otherwise, this is not harmful to your bladder, and the feeling or orgasm and your erection won't change. Retrograde ejaculation can also be a side effect of certain medicines. 

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 7/1/2019
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library