Prostate Cancer

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Nerve-Sparing Surgery

Many men in the United States who have prostatectomies opt for a technique called nerve-sparing surgery, which saves the nerves that control a man’s ability to have an erection.

If you want to have this surgery, make sure that your surgeon is skilled and experienced in the procedure. Ask him how many times he has done this operation (the answer should be at least 150), and ask him for his patients’ statistics on incontinence and impotence.

There are considerations that play into who is eligible for nerve-sparing surgery. Talk to your doctor to determine if you are a good candidate or not. Without it, the risk of becoming impotent after a standard prostatectomy is very high.

A nerve-sparing prostatectomy saves the bundles of nerves, one on each side of the prostate gland, that allow you to get and keep an erection. If your surgeon is able to save the nerve bundles on both sides, your chances of regaining sexual potency are between 40 and 85 percent. If the nerve bundles on only one side can be saved, then the likelihood of regaining sexual potency is 25 to 45 percent.

If you are not a good candidate for this procedure, talk to your doctor about the possibility of doing a nerve-graft procedure. In this procedure, the surgeon will take a nerve from the ankle area and graft it in place of the nerve bundles. This must be done at the same time as the prostatectomy. If the procedure works, men usually see an improvement in potency within a year or two. Our surgeons are leaders in the Northwest in this procedure.