'Prostate procedure gave me my life back'

James Allen-Harvey, who had a ground-breaking treatment for prostate problems. He is pictured sitting in a chair by a window in a waiting room.

Published on 12 November 2020

A grandfather has thanked hospital staff for giving him his life back after he underwent a ground-breaking procedure for prostate problems.

James Allen-Harvey had to have a catheter fitted after his enlarged prostate meant he was unable to pass urine without it.

He was facing an invasive operation to cut away part of the gland until East Kent Hospitals interventional radiology consultant Neelan Das offered him the option of pinhole surgery instead.

Dr Das was able to successfully block blood flow to the prostate gland by using x-ray imaging to guide a thin tube to the blood vessels that supply it. Tiny plastic particles were then injected into the vessels to block the flow, causing the gland to shrink. The procedure took place at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, one of only around 20 NHS hospitals in the country to offer it.

Mr Allen-Harvey, who lives in Westgate, Thanet, and is a retired builder and tiler, said: “Dr Das is a hero in my eyes. He has given me my life back.

“I had lost so much weight my children thought I was going to die, but now I am lifting weights at home, walking the dog four times a day and going running.

“It has been absolutely fantastic.”

His problems began in June 2019 during a visit to relatives in London when he suddenly found he couldn’t urinate.
Medics fitted a catheter and he was told it could only be in for a week – but it ended up in place for more than a year.

Mr Allen-Harvey, 65, said: “It was just dreadful. It was very painful, and I really couldn’t go anywhere at all.

“I couldn’t wear shorts or jeans because of the bag on my leg and I was forever worried about it leaking.

“My muscles were wasting and everyone kept telling me how terrible I looked – and I felt it too.”

After a multitude of tests he was told his prostate gland was enlarged but it wasn’t cancer.

His original surgery date had to be postponed because of the Covid pandemic but was rescheduled this summer.

But then Dr Das offered him another option.

He said: “Dr Das said the alternative procedure, prostate artery embolisation or PAE, would be better for me, and I decided to trust his opinion.

“The original operation would have involved a lot of shaving and cutting, but with the PAE it was all done through a tiny hole in my groin.

“I was awake throughout, which was a bit scary but I didn’t feel any pain. I was chatting to the staff and looking around while they were working.”

He stayed overnight as a precaution and had the catheter in for another six weeks until it was removed at a post-op check-up.

Mr Allen-Harvey said: “They had to make sure I could urinate and I think it was the best wee of my life.

“Now every time I go to the toilet I say thank you.

“I want anyone in the same position to know you will feel well again, and you will get through it – I would recommend the PAE to anyone.”

Dr Das said: “When I hear stories like the one Mr Allen-Harvey has to tell, it totally makes my day and reaffirms that this job is worth doing.

“Our department was the second highest recruiter to a national study on PAE which resulted in it being approved by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence and therefore the NHS.

“We look forward to more patients being offered this procedure.”

He thanked the urology team and consultant urologist Sashi Kommu for asking him to see Mr Allen-Harvey.

The interventional radiology service at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital is led by Dr Robert Kaikini and treats around 1,200 patients per year.

As well as prostate embolisation, the service offers minimally invasive solutions to many medical problems. Women with fibroids can also avoid major surgery such as a hysterectomy thanks to techniques using interventional radiology.

The interventional radiology team provide a 24/7 emergency service alongside elective procedures. Emergency procedures include inserting a device to seal a ruptured aortic aneurysm (a bulge in the main artery of the body) and stopping bleeding to internal organs such as the liver, stomach and kidneys.