Erectile Function Outcome after Bilateral Nerve Sparing Radical Prostatectomy: Which Patients May Be Left Untreated?


Andrea Gallina, MD, Department of Urology, Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Via Olgettina 60, 20132 Milan, Italy. Tel: (39) 02-2643-7286; Fax: (39) 02-2643-7298; E-mail address:


Introduction.  Several studies have shown that erectile function (EF) recovery in patients undergoing bilateral nerve sparing radical prostatectomy (BNSRP) improves significantly when phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5) are administered following surgery.

Aim.  The aim of this article was to identify patients who may recover EF after retropubic BNSRP (BNSRRP) without PDE5.

Methods.  We included 293 patients treated with BNSRRP at a single center. Postoperative EF recovery was defined as an EF domain score of the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) ≥22. No patient received any treatment for postoperative erectile dysfunction (ED). Kaplan–Meier curves assessed time to EF recovery according to patient age, preoperative EF, and Charlson comorbidity index (CCI). Univariable and multivariable Cox regression models tested the association between predictors and EF recovery. Finally, the rate of EF recovery of untreated patients after BNSRP was compared with a subset of patients with similar preoperative characteristics but receiving PDE5.

Main Outcome Measure.  The main outcome measure of this article was the IIEF-EF domain score.

Results.  Overall, 105/293 (35.8%) reached an IIEF-EF ≥22 after a mean follow-up of 26.8 months. At multivariable analyses, age, preoperative IIEF-EF, and CCI achieved independent predictor status (all P ≤ 0.04). Patients <55 years had a 72.4% EF recovery rate compared with 30% of patients >70 years (P < 0.001). Similarly, preoperatively fully potent patients (IIEF-EF ≥26) had a 56.6% chance of recovering EF after surgery compared with 18% of patients with severe ED before surgery (P < 0.001). The rate of EF recovery in untreated patients <55 years and with a pre-op IIEF-EF ≥22 was higher but did not differ significantly from comparable patients receiving PDE5 (P = 0.11).

Conclusions.  Overall, the rate of EF postoperative recovery in patients left untreated after surgery is modest (35.8%). Although younger patients with a good preoperative EF may experience good EF recovery rates even without any treatment, use of PDE5 after surgery further improved their functional outcomes. Therefore, a therapy for ED should be offered to all patients treated with BNSRP. Gallina A, Ferrari M, Suardi N, Capitanio U, Abdollah F, Tutolo M, Bianchi M, Saccà A, Salonia A, Rigatti P, Montorsi F, and Briganti A. Erectile function outcome after bilateral nerve sparing radical prostatectomy: Which patients may be left untreated? J Sex Med 2012;9:903–908.