Nerve-sparing approach during radical prostatectomy is strongly associated with the rate of postoperative urinary continence recovery


Correspondence: Nazareno Suardi, Department of Urology, Urological Research Institute, University Vita-Salute San Raffaele, Via Olgettina 60, 20132 Milan, Italy.



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

  • Urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction are the most bothersome sequelae affecting health-related quality of life in patients treated with radical prostatectomy for prostate cancer. While it has been widely reported that a nerve-sparing approach significantly improves postoperative erectile function, the impact of neurovascular bundle preservation on urinary continence recovery is still a matter of controversy.
  • Our study clearly demonstrates that patients treated with nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy have higher chances of recovering full continence after surgery. The results indicate that, when technically and oncologically feasible, an attempt at a nerve-sparing approach should be planned in order to increase the probability of achieving full continence after radical prostatectomy.


  • To demonstrate that nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy (NSRP) is associated with higher rates of urinary continence (UC) recovery compared with non-nerve-sparing procedures in patients with surgically treated organ-confined prostate cancer.

Patients and Methods

  • The study included 1249 patients treated with radical prostatectomy between 2003 and 2010. Patients were divided into three preoperative risk groups: low (PSA < 10 ng/mL, cT1, biopsy Gleason sum ≤6), high (cT3 or biopsy Gleason 8–10 or PSA > 20 ng/mL) and intermediate (all the remaining).
  • Postoperative UC recovery was defined as the absence of any protection device.
  • The association between nerve-sparing status and UC recovery was assessed in univariable and multivariable Cox regression analyses after accounting for age at surgery, Charlson Comorbidity Index and preoperative risk group.


  • At a mean follow-up of 42.2 months (range 1–78), 993 patients (79.5%) recovered UC. Overall, UC recovery rate at 1 and 2 years was 76% and 79%, respectively.
  • On univariable Cox regression analysis, age at surgery, preoperative risk group, medical comorbidities and nerve-sparing status were significantly associated with UC recovery (all P ≤ 0.001).
  • On multivariable analysis, age, risk group and nerve-sparing status were also independently associated with UC recovery (all P < 0.003). Patients treated with bilateral NSRP had a 1.8-fold higher chance of full UC recovery.


  • Patients treated with bilateral NSRP have significantly higher chances of recovering full continence.
  • Therefore, when oncologically and technically feasible, a nerve-sparing procedure should be attempted.