Orlando Health Cancer Institute offers the latest radiation treatments and technology for prostate cancer, with the goal of killing cancer cells and preserving surrounding healthy tissue. Our compassionate and knowledgeable team works with you to lower your risks during radiation treatments. Rectal spacers -- SpaceOAR and Barrigel -- protect the rectum from radiation side effects due to prostate cancer treatment.
What are Rectal Spacers and How Do They Work?
Rectal spacers temporarily move the rectal wall farther away from the prostate to protect against unintentional damage to the rectal wall during radiation treatment. SpaceOAR is a soft, non-toxic gel that is made mostly from water. The material has also been successfully used for other implants, such as surgical sealants used in the eye, brain and spine. Barrigel is a specialized substance that your doctor can sculpt and customize to fit your unique anatomy.
Using a small needle, we inject either the SpaceOAR or Barrigel spacer between the prostate and the rectum to temporarily create a barrier and protect the rectum from radiation during treatment. Both spacers are biocompatible, meaning they can be used in the body without causing injury or reaction.
What Should I Expect During the Rectal Spacer Procedure?
The procedure is minimally invasive and can be done in a short outpatient appointment, so you do not have to stay overnight in the hospital. You receive either local anesthesia (numbing injection) or general anesthesia (medicine to put you to sleep) to avoid feeling any discomfort during the procedure.
During the procedure, we use ultrasound imaging to see where to place the spacer material. Next, we inject the substance as a liquid between your rectum and prostate using a small needle. The liquid solidifies into a gel within seconds. This creates a space of 0.5 inch (1.3 cm) between the rectum and prostate. Although this may seem like a small space, it is very effective in protecting the rectum from radiation. Your doctor will decide whether SpaceOAR or Barrigel is the best option for you.
When Can I Return to Normal Activities?
You may be able to return to normal activities immediately after the procedure. Our team works with you on an individual basis to determine the safest plan for returning to your normal activities.
How Long Do Rectal Spacers Last?
The rectal spacers usually last about three months. After about six months, it is naturally absorbed and passes through your urine. You do not need another procedure to remove it.
What Are the Advantages of Using Rectal Spacers?
Our team wants to protect your healthy cells, like those in your rectum, during radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
The benefits include:
- Injecting the spacer material is a minimally invasive procedure with low risks
- Lower potential side effects from radiation, including:
- Bowel problems
- Erectile dysfunction
- Rectal pain and bleeding
- Urinary urgency and leakage
- Chronic diarrhea
- Spacers protect the rectum during all types of radiation treatments, including:
- External radiation (external beam radiation therapy – EBRT)
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy)
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)
- Proton beam therapy
- Lower risk of damaging healthy cells in the rectum through radiation
- The biocompatible spacer material is easily absorbed by the body and does not have to be removed after radiation treatment.
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