SpaceOAR® Hydrogel: reducing the side-effects of prostate cancer radiation therapy

Written by: Mr Jaspal Virdi
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

A new procedure is being offered by Mr Jaspal Virdi to protect the sex lives of many men undergoing prostate radiation therapy and improve their quality of life. Radiation damage to tissues is a side-effect of prostate therapy and can result in loss of sexual function, as well as rectal bleeding and other bowel and urinary problems. Essex-based urological surgeon, Mr Virdi explains more.

What is SpaceOAR® Hydrogel?

SpaceOAR® Hydrogel is an absorbable hydrogel that acts as a temporary spacer between the rectum and the prostate to protect the rectum from radiation exposure during prostate radiation therapy. It is a gel-like material that is injected into place just before the therapy and is naturally absorbed into the body around six months.


How does SpaceOAR® Hydrogel help reduce the side effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer?

The prostate and rectum are very close and are only naturally separated by a small space. Due to this closeness, prostate radiation therapy can accidentally cause damage to the rectum. By separating the prostate from the rectum, Space OAR hydrogel reduces radiation dosages delivered to the rectum and may eliminate or reduce damage to the rectum. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you may be considering radiation therapy for treatment.


Radiation therapy is extremely effective in targeting and treating prostate cancer, but as with any procedure, there are potential side effects. Side effects can be mild and go away on their own, but for some patients, they can last for years after treatment is completed and can have a profoundly negative impact on the quality of life. Space OAR Hydrogel minimizes the side effects of prostate cancer radiation therapy and protects your quality of life. 


It may also allow your doctor to enhance radiation treatment to your prostate to better target cancer or to reduce the total number of treatments.


What are the side effects of prostate cancer radiation therapy?

Some of the side-effects can include:



Is SpaceOAR®  Hydrogel safe?

Space OAR hydrogel is made of two liquids, that when combined, form a soft gel-like synthetic material that is mostly made of water, which is why it is called a hydrogel. The material that the Space OAR hydrogel is made from has been used in other implants such as surgical sealants used on the eye, brain and spine. Studies have shown that the material is biocompatible and can be used safely in the body.


What is the procedure like?

The procedure is carried out during brachytherapy alone or with supplementary radiation or external beam radiation to treat localised or locally advanced prostate cancer. While there is no required special preparation for the Space OAR hydrogel procedure, you will be given instructions on how to prepare your bowel for the procedure and general anaesthesia that you will receive. You should always ask your doctor what you should do in advance of the procedure.


After the procedure, you may experience some temporary discomfort at the injection site. Space OAR hydrogel patients typically report no prolonged discomfort from the implanted hydrogel. You should be able to immediately resume your normal activities. Space OAR hydrogel separates your prostate and rectum for about three months providing protection during radiation treatment and is naturally absorbed in about six months – well after your last treatment.


Are there any risks?

Clinical data comparing patients with and without Space OAR hydrogel demonstrated the benefits of using Space OAR hydrogel in reducing rectal toxicity and resulting in improved bowel function, improvements in urinary function and a higher likelihood to maintain sexual function.


Potential complications associated with Space OAR hydrogel include but are not limited to:


  • Pain associated with Space OAR hydrogel injection
  • Local inflammatory reactions and infections
  • Injection of air, fluid or Space OAR hydrogel intravascularly
  • Rectal mucosal damage, ulcers, bleeding, constipation and rectal urgency


All of these complications are very rare, affecting less than 3% of all patients. These complications have shown to clear up spontaneously within two days without the need for more treatment. Although, urinary retention has been present in around 12% of patients and sometimes catheterisation is needed for two days following the treatment.


Follow-up patient results

Three years after treatment, patients from the study were asked to report on their quality of life for bowel, urinary and sexual functions. These reported outcomes showed that Space OAR hydrogel patients experienced significantly fewer long-term rectal side effects, were more likely to maintain sexual function and had significantly higher patient-reported scores for urinary and bowel quality of life. Overall, rectal toxicity came down from 9 to 2%.


To book a consultation with Mr Jaspal Virdi, visit his Top Doctors profile and check his availability.

By Mr Jaspal Virdi

Mr Jaspal Virdi is a leading urological surgeon based in Essex and Hertfordshire with a special interest in prostate cancer detection and treatment. Mr Virdi performs multiparametric MRI scan, fusion prostate biopsy, focal HIFU, cryo-ablation and brachytherapy. He has been practising advanced urology for over 35 years and has vast experience in treating various urological diseases.

Mr Virdi gained his experience in urology through working at the Royal Infirmary Edinburgh, the Royal Infirmary Cardiff, St Vincent Hospital Dublin and the University College Hospitals London. He was also an associate professor in urology at Sher-E Kashmir Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Kashmir in India. Mr Virdi is listed on The Global Directory of Who’s Who in recognition of dedication to his occupation.

Since 1998, Mr Virdi has been actively involved in charity work and in the development of new innovative treatments for prostate cancer research. He has a close association with the charities HEAL (Hearts, Essex and London) and the Helen Rollason Cancer Appeal. Mr Virdi also works closely with local communities in Essex to raise funds by holding ceremonies such as 'plant a tree'.

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