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Intraoperative Cavernous Nerve Stimulation and Laser-Doppler Flowmetry during Radical Prostatectomy


  • Hans W. Axelson PhD, MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neuroscience, Neurophysiology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
    • Hans Axelson, PhD, Department of Neuroscience, Clinical Neurophysiology, Uppsala University, Entrance 85, 3rd floor, Uppsala University Hospital, S-75185 Uppsala, Sweden. Tel: +46-18-6113955; Fax: +46-18-504768; E-mail:

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  • Eva Johansson PhD, MD,

    1. Department of Surgical Sciences, Urology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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  • Anna Bill-Axelson PhD, MD

    1. Department of Surgical Sciences, Urology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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Introduction.  Erectile dysfunction is a common side effect following radical prostatectomy mainly due to damage of the pelvic autonomic nerve fibers (cavernous nerves). Intraoperative electrical stimulation of the cavernous nerves while measuring changes in penile girth has previously been shown to provide the surgeon with feedback of nerve integrity.

Aim.  To test the feasibility of recording changes in glans penis blood flow by Laser Doppler flowmetry from cavernous nerve stimulation.

Methods.  Fifteen patients with localized prostate cancer undergoing radical prostatectomy had electrical stimulation of the proximal and distal parts of the neurovascular bundles after prostate removal. The stimulation consisted of 30–40 seconds biphasic constant current (10–30 mA) with 0.5 millisecond pulse duration.

Main Outcome Measures.  Stimulus induced changes in penile blood flow was recorded from a Laser Doppler probe attached to the glans penis. Changes in penile girth were simultaneously recorded from a mercury-in rubber strain gauge. Erectile function was evaluated three months after surgery.

Results.  Ten patients had stimulus induced increase in Laser Doppler flow unilaterally (N = 7) or bilaterally (N = 3). Out of 10 patients, 6 reported some preserved erectile function postoperatively at 3 months follow-up (indicating 6 true and 4 false positives). Three patients had no Doppler response from stimulation and had no postoperative erectile function postoperatively (indicating three true negatives). Two patients were excluded from the study due to bad signal quality in the Laser Doppler signal. In the majority of patients, stimulation produced increase in penile girth sensed by the strain gauge.

Conclusion.  This preliminary report provides evidence that Laser Doppler Flowmetry is able to detect increased penile blood flow from intraoperative electrical stimulation of the neurovascular bundles. However, further improvement in the recording technique is required. Laser Doppler Flowmetry may also be feasible to confirm autonomic nerve sparing in women undergoing pelvic surgery. Axelson HW, Johansson E, and Bill-Axelson A. Intraoperative cavernous nerve stimulation and Laser-Doppler flowmetry during radical prostatectomy. J Sex Med 2013;10:2842–2848