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Keywords:

  • cavernous nerves;
  • continuous-wave;
  • optical nerve stimulation;
  • prostate;
  • subsurface

Abstract

Successful identification and preservation of the cavernous nerves (CN), which are responsible for sexual function and vulnerable to damage during prostate cancer surgery, will require subsurface detection of the CN's beneath a thin fascia layer. This study explores the feasibility of optical nerve stimulation (ONS) in the rat with a fascia layer placed over the CN. Two near-infrared diode lasers with wavelengths of 1455 and 1550 nm were operated in continuous-wave mode for stimulation of the CN in 8 rats, in vivo. Successful ONS was confirmed by an intracavernous pressure (ICP) response in the rat penis at 1455 nm through fascia with a thickness up to 110 μm and at 1550 nm through fascia with a thickness up to 450 μm. Higher incident laser power was required to produce an ICP response as fascia thickness was increased. Also, weaker and slower ICP responses were observed as fascia thickness was increased. Subsurface ONS of the rat CN at a depth of 450 μm using a 1550 nm laser is feasible as an intermediate step towards developing ONS as an intra-operative diagnostic tool for identification and preservation of the cavernous nerves during prostate cancer surgery. (© 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim)