Does a nerve-sparing technique or potency affect continence after open radical retropubic prostatectomy?


Herbert Lepor, Professor and Martin Spatz Chairman, Department of Urology, NYU School of Medicine, 150 East 32nd Street – 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10016, USA.



To characterize the effect of preserving the neurovascular bundle (NVB) and of potency on urinary continence after open radical retropubic prostatectomy (ORRP).


Between October 2000 to September 2005, 1110 consecutive continent men had ORRP by one surgeon. The University of California Los Angeles Prostate Cancer Index was self-administered at baseline and 3, 6, 12, and 24 months after ORRP. Men were considered continent if they responded that they had total urinary control or had occasional urinary leakage. Men were considered potent if they engaged in sexual intercourse with or without the use of phosphodiesterase inhibitors at least once in the month before or after ORRP. Of the 1110 men, 728 (66%) were potent and continent at baseline. Men undergoing adjuvant hormonal therapy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy were excluded. The potency status was evaluated in 610 men at 24 months after ORRP, and the number of NVBs preserved was recorded at the time of ORRP.


Of men who were potent at baseline and had bilateral vs unilateral nerve sparing, 96% and 99% were continent at 24 months, respectively (P = 0.50). Of the men who were potent and impotent at 24 months, 98% and 96% were continent at 24 months, respectively (P = 0.25). Continence did not depend on whether men regained potency or whether they had a bilateral or a unilateral nerve-sparing procedure.


Our observation that only 60% of men undergoing bilateral nerve-sparing ORRP regain potency suggests that the NVBs are often inadvertently injured, despite efforts to preserve them. We feel that potency status is the best indicator of the true extent of NVB preservation. That men undergoing bilateral vs unilateral nerve-sparing procedures, and that potent vs impotent men at 24 months have similar continence rates, provides compelling evidence that nerve-sparing is not associated with better continence. Based on these findings, NVBs should not be preserved in men with baseline erectile dysfunction, with the expectation of improving continence.