Dr. Ben Ristau

Better Urologic Cancer Detection

Dr. Ben Ristau uses ultrasound to guide a transperineal prostate biopsy.

Dr. Ben Ristau uses ultrasound to guide a transperineal prostate biopsy.


UConn Health urologists are at the forefront of new and improved approaches to detecting prostate and bladder cancer, the first and fourth most common forms of cancer among men.

When a patient needs a prostate biopsy, the urology team is among the first in New England to practice a new method called transperineal prostate biopsy, which offers distinct advantages in safety and precision over previous protocols.

Historically when a biopsy was needed, urologists would pierce the rectal wall with a needle to take a biopsy of the prostate. Known as a transrectal biopsy, the procedure carries a small but real risk of infection. Roughly three out of every 100 men who undergo a transrectal biopsy end up in the intensive care unit with sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition related to the body’s response to infection.

“The other problem with the transrectal approach is the difficulty accessing some portions of the prostate,” says Dr. Peter Albertsen, chief of UConn Health’s Division of Urology. “The angle of the biopsy needle traversing the probe makes it hard to hit the apex of the prostate. With the transperineal approach, we are finding it much easier to access regions of the prostate which historically have been difficult to reach with a transrectal probe.”

With transperineal biopsy, the needle that retrieves the tissue sample goes not through the rectum but the soft tissue just outside and past it, guided by the latest ultrasound technology for a clear, real-time view.

“Fortunately there are no nasty blood vessels, there are no nasty nerves, and it’s a straight shot to get” to the prostate, Albertsen says. “And by not going through the rectum, we anticipate the risk of sepsis going to zero.”

For bladder cancer detection, the urologists are the first in central Connecticut to use a new blue light cystoscopy technology to illuminate tumors in the bladder and identify smaller cancers earlier than ever before.

Certain tumors are hard to detect using traditional white light cystoscopy, but turn pink under the enhanced imaging provided by the blue light.

“Recurrence rates for bladder cancers are somewhere in the 50–70% range. Using blue light cystoscopy, depending on the tumor type, can reduce the risk of recurrence by about 40%, which means fewer trips to the operating room,” says Dr. Benjamin Ristau, UConn Health’s surgical director of urologic oncology.

Class of 2009 Med Students Return to Practice at UConn Health

Class of 2009 reunite. From left: Dr. Sara Tabtabai, Dr. Ben Ristau, Dr. Todd Falcone, and Dr. Marilyn Katz

From left: Dr. Sara Tabtabai, Dr. Ben Ristau, Dr. Todd Falcone, and Dr. Marilyn Katz


TThe UConn School of Medicine graduating class of 2009 is experiencing a mini-reunion at UConn Health, with five doctors from the class now practicing here.

Dr. Todd Falcone (ear, nose, and throat), Dr. Marilyn Katz (internal medicine), Dr. Ben Ristau (urologic oncology), Dr. Sara Tabtabai (cardiology), and Dr. Rafael Pacheco (radiology) came back with fond memories of their time as UConn medical students.

Katz says she knew the UConn School of Medicine was a match right away. “I loved everyone I met on my interview day — students, faculty, and staff — and canceled all my other interviews once I received my acceptance.”

Falcone joined UConn Health in 2014. “I had an excellent time here, and I credit the School of Medicine for preparing me to match into a competitive residency program and become a competent and caring physician and educator. I do not believe I could have received a better medical school education anywhere else.”

The five physicians say their medical school connections help them deliver better patient care today. “Rafael Pacheco and I were medical interns together as he was doing his prelim year prior to radiology,” Katz shares. “It was great to discuss similar patient cases with him then, and knowing I can call him now to discuss testing is a huge benefit as a primary care physician.”