While Dr. Jeffrey Sparenborg was on his pediatric block of medical training, he saw a baby boy with a genital urinary malformation that blocked the outflow of urine, causing it to back up into the kidney — a condition known as hydronephrosis.
He watched as urologists performed a surgical procedure that fixed the problem and allowed for the baby’s healthy development.
“I became fascinated with the urinary system — the kidneys and how everything connects — and I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Dr. Sparenborg says from his Intermountain Utah Valley Urology Clinic in Provo.
Dr. Richard McWhorter was also drawn to urology by witnessing the end results for those who benefit from the treatments.
“I know all patients are grateful for the work doctors do to help them, but you won’t find a more grateful group of patients than those I work with,” he says.
For both Dr. Sparenborg and Dr. McWhorter, urology gives them an avenue where they can utilize non-surgical treatments in addition to surgical solutions for urinary and reproductive conditions.
“Laparoscopic surgery and the robot have made a huge difference in treatments,” Dr. Sparenborg says.
For example, prostate cancer patients have new solutions and options.
“I can have a patient with cancer, and we can make a small incision with a surgical robot, remove the tumor and he’s out of the hospital the next day,” Dr. Sparenborg says. “The robot has a camera that lets us more easily access the prostate and see it in 3-D, leading to better results and quicker healing time.”
Dr. McWhorter specializes in pelvic floor reconstructive surgery, which is easier and more effective in most cases using robotic surgery.
A wide-reaching specialty
Urology specialists treat conditions related to the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. No surprise there. But people are usually surprised to learn urologists are both medical doctors and surgeons. In addition, they see both men and women (about 40 percent of patients are female). In fact, the vast majority of patients Dr. McWhorter sees are women.
Urologists also treat babies and grandpas.
“Urology has a lot of misconceptions surrounding it,” Dr. Sparenborg says. “We don’t just take care of old men with prostate problems. Women have bladders and kidneys, too. Both genders develop kidney stones.”
While Dr. Sparenborg practices all areas of urology, he finds particular satisfaction in treating cancer patients.
“Oncology is a big part of my practice,” he says. “About 40 percent of all cancers are genital/urinary based.”
During his training, he worked closely with the National Institute of Health on the new treatment modality for the next generation of prostate cancer patients.
“One of my goals is to establish a clinic where we have input from radiation oncologists and medical oncologists,” Dr. Sparenborg says. “Treating cancer is collaborative, and I enjoy being part of a treatment team that works together to give patients the best options.”
In younger men, genital cancer usually manifests with testicular cancer. In older men, cancer more commonly forms in the prostate.
Dr. McWhorter is transitioning from his practice in Arkansas to Utah Valley Urology and will be in Utah full-time starting in June.
The partnership with Dr. Sparenborg works well, as Dr. McWhorter focuses less on oncology and more on reconstructive surgery — specifically for pelvic floor reconstruction and prolapse in female patients.
“Women who have delivered children vaginally tend to have incontinence earlier than others,” Dr. McWhorter says. “Utah women have more children — and have them younger — than national averages, so it aligns that many will suffer from urinary incontinence.”
If a woman leaks when exercising, sneezing or laughing, Dr. McWhorter suggests coming in for a consultation. In most cases, relief comes through an outpatient surgery. Prolapse surgery is more involved and has a slightly longer recovery time, but both patients can typically be back to full activity in a matter of weeks — problem-free.
A troubling rock formation
Dr. Sparenborg and Dr. McWhorter both assist patients who have kidney stones with the compassionate empathy of someone who has had a kidney stone.
“I know what they are going through,” he says.
Typically, both doctors see patients who have kidney stones that won’t pass on their own. They also see patients in the office to help prevent kidney stones if they developed stones before the age of 18, have a family history of kidney stones or have had multiple stones.
A second look
Dr. Sparenborg and Dr. McWhorter work closely with general physicians and receive frequent referrals. Usually, referrals come when a work-up — commonly a urine sample — requires a second look.
“It’s usually when there’s blood in the urine,” Dr. Sparenborg says. “When the patient’s concern is out of the scope of what the general practitioner is comfortable with, they will get me involved.”
However, both doctors welcome walk-ins and find that for some potentially embarrassing conditions — like erectile dysfunction or incontinence — patients often prefer to see a specialist from the beginning.