Holmium Laser Enucleation of the Prostate (HoLEP)



What does the procedure involve?


This operation involves the telescopic removal of obstructing prostate tissue using a laser and temporary insertion of a catheter for bladder irrigation. It utilises the holmium laser as a precise cutting instrument to enucleate the lobes of prostate

The standard surgical treatment of Benign Prostatic enlargement causing bladder outflow obstruction leading to retention of urine or other urinary symptoms is transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP). However, relatively high morbidity associated with TURP has led to the development of a range of minimally invasive techniques, some of which use thermal energy. One such minimally invasive technique is the use of holmium: yttrium-aluminium-garnet (YAG) laser which is approved by NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence)

The most evolved Holmium laser procedure on the prostate is Holmium laser enucleation of prostate (HoLEP). It utilises the holmium laser as a precise cutting instrument to enucleate the lobes of prostate. Initially a bilateral bladder neck incision is made to define the margins of resection. The median and lateral lobes are then individually undermined and peeled off the prostate capsule in a retrograde direction.

HoLEP is performed with a modified continuous flow resectoscope that has a circular fibre guide in the tip of the scope. An end-firing laser fibre is used as a precise cutting instrument by which the intact prostatic lobes are removed with the holmium laser and then passed into the bladder where they are cut into smaller pieces, before removal.

A primary advantage of HoLEP over other laser prostatectomy techniques is that it can rapidly create a large ‘TURP-like’ cavity by immediately removing obstructing tissue, rendering it suitable for large prostates. The coagulative ability of the holmium laser effectively seals tissue planes as the operation progresses, which makes HoLEP a relatively bloodless operation with a concomitant reduction in transfusion requirement, and also avoids the dangers of systemic fluid absorption.

Other advantages include a reduced need for bladder irrigation, shorter postoperative catheterisation period and length of hospital stay, and the ability to retrieve tissue for histological examination.

What are the alternatives to this procedure?


  • Alternatives to the procedure include, drugs, use of a catheter/stent, observation, conventional transurethral resection or open operation.

  • What should I expect before the procedure?

    If you are taking Clopidogrel on a regular basis, you must stop 10 days before your admission. This drug can cause increased bleeding after prostate surgery. Treatment can be re-started safely about 10 days after you get home. If you are taking Warfarin to thin your blood, you should ensure that your urologist is aware of this well in advance of your admission.


    You will usually be admitted on the day of your surgery. You will normally receive an appointment for pre-assessment to assess your general fitness, to screen for the carriage of MRSA and to perform some baseline investigations.


    You will be asked not to eat or drink for 6 hours before surgery and, immediately before the operation.


    Please be sure to inform your surgeon in advance of your surgery if you have any of the following:

    An artificial heart valve 
    A coronary artery stent 
    A heart pacemaker or defibrillator 
    An artificial joint 
    An artificial blood vessel graft 
    A neurosurgical shunt 
    Any other implanted foreign body 
    A regular prescription for Warfarin, Aspirin or Clopidogrel (Plavix®) 
    A previous or current MRSA infection 

    At some stage during the admission process, you will be asked to sign a consent form giving permission for your operation to take place, showing you understand what is to be done and confirming that you wish to proceed. Make sure that you are given the opportunity to discuss any concerns and to ask any questions you may still have before signing the form.

  • What happens during the procedure?

    A full general anaesthetic (where you will be asleep throughout the procedure) will be used. The operation, on average, takes 60-150 minutes, depending on the size of your prostate.


    You will usually be given an injectable antibiotic before the procedure after checking for any drug allergies. The laser is used to separate the obstructing prostate tissue from its surrounding capsule and to push it in large chunks into the bladder. An instrument is then used through the telescope to remove the prostate tissue from the bladder. A catheter is normally left to drain the bladder at the end of the procedure.

  • What happens immediately after the procedure?

    In general terms, you should expect to be told how the procedure went and you should:

    Ask if what was planned to be done was achieved .

    Let the medical staff know if you are in any discomfort .

    Ask what you can and cannot do

    Feel free to ask any questions or discuss any concerns with the ward staff and members of the surgical team.

    Ensure that you are clear about what has been done and what is the next move.

    There is always some bleeding from the prostate area after the operation. The urine is usually clear of blood after 12 hours, although some patients lose more blood for longer. It is unusual to require a blood transfusion after laser surgery.

    It is useful to drink as much fluid as possible in the first 12 hours after the operation because this helps the urine clear of any blood more quickly. Sometimes, fluid is flushed through the catheter to clear the urine of blood. You will be able to eat and drink on the same day as the operation when you feel able to.

    The catheter is generally removed the following morning after surgery. After checking that you have passed urine, the doctors can decide whether you may go home without the catheter. At first, it may be painful to pass your urine and it may come more frequently than normal. Any initial discomfort can be relieved by tablets or injections and the frequency usually improves within a few days.

    Some of your symptoms, especially frequency, urgency and getting up at night to pass urine, may not improve for several months because these are often due to bladder over-activity (which takes time to resolve after prostate surgery) rather than prostate blockage.

    Since a large portion of prostate tissue is removing with the laser technique, there may be some temporary loss of urinary control until your pelvic floor muscles strengthen and recover.

    It is not unusual for your urine to turn bloody again for the first 24-48 hours after catheter removal. Some blood may be visible in the urine even several weeks after surgery but this is not usually a problem. Let your nurse know if you are unable to pass urine and feel as if your bladder is full after the catheter is removed.

    Some patients, particularly those with small prostate glands, are unable to pass urine all after the operation due to temporary swelling of the prostate area. If this should happen, we normally pass a catheter again to allow the swelling to resolve and the bladder to regain its function. Usually, patients who require re-catheterisation go home with a catheter in place and then return within a week for a second catheter removal which is successful in almost all cases.

    The average hospital stay is 1-2 days.

    Are there any side effects?

    Most procedures have a potential for side-effects. You should be reassured that, although all these complications are well-recognized, the majority of patients do not suffer any problems after a urological procedure..

    Common (greater than 1 in 10)

    Temporary mild burning, bleeding and frequency of urination after the procedure

    No semen is produced during an orgasm in approximately 75% If the prostate is fully enucleated

    Treatment may not relieve all the urinary symptoms 

    Poor erections (impotence in approximately <5%)

    Infection of the bladder, testes or kidney requiring antibiotics


    Need to repeat treatment later due to re-obstruction (approx 10%)
    Injury to the urethra causing delayed scar formation
    Loss of urinary control (incontinence) which reduces within 6 weeks (10-15%); this can usually be improved with pelvic floor exercises

    Occasional((between 1 in 10 and 1 in 50))

    May need self-catheterisation to empty bladder fully If bladder weak
    Failure to pass urine after surgery requiring a new catheter
    Bleeding requiring return to theatre and/or blood transfusion (less than 2%)

    Rare (less than 1 in 50)

    Finding unsuspected cancer in the removed tissue which may need further treatment
    Retained tissue fragments floating in the bladder which may require a second telescopic procedure for their removal

    Very Rare

    Perforation of the bladder requiring a temporary urinary catheter or open surgical repair
    Persistent loss of urinary control which may require a further operation (1- 2%)
    Hospital-acquired infection
    Colonization with MRSA (0.9% – 1 in 110)
    Clostridium difficile bowel infection (0.01% – 1 in 10,000)
    MRSA bloodstream infection (0.02% – 1 in 5000)
    The rates for hospital-acquired infection may be greater in high-risk patients e.g. with long-term drainage tubes, after removal of the bladder for cancer, after previous infections, after prolonged hospitalisation or after multiple admissions

    What should I expect when I get home?

    By the time of your discharge from hospital, you should:

    Be given advice about your recovery at home  Ask when to resume normal activities such as work, exercise, driving, housework and sexual intimacy

    Ask for a contact number if you have any concerns once you return home 

    Ask when your follow-up will be and who will do this (the hospital or your GP)

    Ensure that you know when you will be told the results of any tests done on tissues or organs which have been removed

    When you leave hospital, you will be given a “draft” discharge summary of your admission. This holds important information about your inpatient stay and your operation. If you need to call your GP for any reason or to attend another hospital, please take this summary with you to allow the doctors to see details of your treatment. This is particularly important if you need to consult another doctor within a few days of your discharge.

    Most patients feel tired and below par for a week or two because this is major surgery. You may notice that you pass very small flecks of tissue in the urine at times within the first month as the prostate area heals. This does not usually interfere with the urinary stream or cause discomfort.

    What should I look out for?

    If you experience increasing frequency, burning or difficulty on passing urine or worrying bleeding, contact your GP.

    About 1 man in 5 experiences bleeding some 10-14 days after getting home; this is due to scabs separating from the cavity of the prostate. Increasing your fluid intake should stop this bleeding quickly but, If it does not, you should contact your GP who will prescribe some antibiotics for you.


    In the event of severe bleeding, passage of clots or sudden difficulty in passing urine, you should contact your GP immediately since it may be necessary for you to be re-admitted to hospital.


    Are there any other important points?

    Removal of your prostate should not adversely affect your sex life provided you are getting normal erections before the surgery. Sexual activity can be resumed as soon as you are comfortable, usually after 3-4 weeks.

    It is often helpful to start pelvic floor exercises as soon as possible after the operation since this can improve your control when you get home. The symptoms of an overactive bladder may take 3 months to resolve whereas the flow is improved immediately.


    If you need any specific information on these exercises, please contact the ward staff or the Specialist Nurses. The symptoms of an overactive bladder may take 3 months to resolve whereas the flow is improved immediately.


    The results of any tissue removed will be available after 14 – 21 days and you and You and your GP will be informed of the results by letter.


    You will be reviewed in the outpatient clinic and several tests repeated (including a flow rate, bladder scan & symptom score) to help assess the effects of the surgery.


    Most patients require a recovery period of 1-2 weeks at home before they feel ready for work. We recommend 3-4 weeks’ rest before resuming any job, especially If it is physically strenuous and you should avoid any heavy lifting during this time.

    Driving after surgery

    It is your responsibility to ensure that you are fit to drive following your surgery.

    You do not normally need to notify the DVLA unless you have a medical condition that will last for longer than 3 months after your surgery and may affect your ability to drive.

    You should, however, check with your insurance company before returning to driving. Your doctors will be happy to provide you with advice on request.