Assessing couples' preferences for postoperative sexual rehabilitation before radical prostatectomy


B. Joyce Davison, Room 310-1121 College Drive, College of Nursing, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, Canada S7N 0W3. e-mail:


Study Type – Therapy (patient's preference)

Level of Evidence 2b

What's known on the subject? and What does the study add?

Erectile dysfunction after radical prostatectomy (RP) continues to cause men significant levels of distress, but few report being satisfied with the erectile aids that are prescribed. Most couples who do seek treatment report difficulty in maintaining sexual activity and intimate relationships. Although inclusion of partners in sexual rehabilitation programmes may be beneficial, partners are usually not included as part of current treatment protocols.

Preoperative assessment of a couple's readiness to engage in a sexual rehabilitation programme is needed given that only 41% of patients scheduled for a radical prostatectomy during the study period agreed to be in the study. Results show that although patients have mild erectile function, their partners' overall levels of sexual function suggest a need for further medical evaluation. Patients want their partners to be included in the sexual rehabilitation process but few institutions currently offer couple-based rehabilitation programmes. Although intimacy levels of couples are high preoperatively, there is a need to prospectively determine how these levels are impacted by changes in sexual function postoperatively.


  • • To evaluate the readiness of couples to engage in a sexual rehabilitation programme (SRP) before radical prostatectomy (RP) and to identify barriers to participation in an SRP after RP.
  • • To identify couples' current levels of sexual function and intimacy.


  • • Patients completed the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) and their partners completed the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) to measure sexual function.
  • • Couples completed the Miller Social Intimacy Scale (MSIS) to measure intimacy in relationships.
  • • All participants were seen by a sexual health clinician after completing the measures to discuss barriers to participation in an SRP, and to receive an education session.


  • • Study participants comprised 143 patients and 104 partners.
  • • Patients <60 years old had significantly higher sexual function (P < 0.002) compared with those patients aged 60 years and older.
  • • Partners' sexual function scores were suggestive of need for further medical evaluation.
  • • Partners' participation was cited by patients as important to them enrolling in an SRP.
  • • Couples' intimacy levels were strongly correlated (P < 0.0001).


  • • Results suggest that less than 50% of patients are interested in receiving information about the impact of RP on sexual function before surgery.
  • • Female sexual function should be assessed as part of any SRP because they may require medical treatment if they are to support rehabilitation efforts for their spouses.
  • • Baseline assessment of a couple's sexual function and willingness to participate in an SRP should be performed preoperatively.