What is the role of prostate surgery in the etiology of erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Updated: Aug 08, 2018
  • Author: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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Answer

Prostate surgery for benign prostatic hyperplasia has been documented to be associated with ED in 10-20% of men. This association is thought to be related to nerve damage from cauterization. Newer procedures (eg, microwave, laser, or radiofrequency ablation) have rarely been associated with ED.

Radical prostatectomy for the treatment of prostate cancer poses a significant risk of ED. A number of factors are associated with the chance of preserving erectile function. If both nerves that course on the lateral edges of the prostate can be saved, the chance of maintaining erectile function is reasonable. The odds depend on the age of the patient. Men younger than 60 years have a 75-80% chance of preserving potency, but men older than 70 years have only a 10-15% chance.

The Cancer of the Prostate Strategic Urologic Research Endeavor (CaPSURE) study, designed to determine whether an individual man’s sexual outcomes after most common treatments for early-stage prostate cancer could be accurately predicted on the basis of baseline characteristics and treatment plans, found that 2 years after treatment, 177 (35%) of 511 men who underwent prostatectomy reported the ability to attain functional erections suitable for intercourse. [45]

In comparison, 37% of men who had received external radiotherapy as their primary therapy reported the ability to attain functional erections suitable for intercourse, along with 43% of men who had received brachytherapy as primary treatment. Pretreatment sexual health-related quality of life score, age, serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level, race or ethnicity, body mass index, and intended treatment details were associated with functional erections 2 years after treatment. [45]

After surgery, one of the oral PDE5 inhibitors (sildenafil, vardenafil, or tadalafil) is frequently used to assist in the recovery of erectile function. The benefit of penile rehabilitation therapy is under investigation, but results have been mixed. [46, 47]


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