Study: Less-invasive prostate surgery increases risk of impotence and incontinence

prostate cancer

According to the findings of a Defense Department-funded study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the risk of impotence and incontinence is higher in older men who undergo minimally invasive surgery - a robot-assisted surgery performed through small cuts in the abdomen - for prostate cancer.

The new study's lead author, Dr. Jim Hu, a urologist at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital, opined that though less-invasive prostatectomies are preferred to the traditional open surgery as they are more precise in removing the prostate, have shorter recovery periods, and fewer complications; they notably increase the risk of losing sexual function and urine control.

The findings of the study are based on the 2003-2007 Medicare data for almost 9,000 men who underwent prostate surgery, with 6,900 of them going in for open surgery. It was found that while the minimally invasive procedure reduced hospitalization period from 3 to 2 days, and caused less blood loss, it increased the risk of incontinence and impotence after 18 months.

Noting that the advantages of the 2001-introduced minimally invasive surgery are somewhat "oversold," Hu said that the technique - used in nearly 40 percent of procedures to remove the prostate - brought along a 40 percent increased likelihood of impotency and a 30 percent more risk of incontinency.

Hu remarked: "There has been rapid adoption of minimally invasive radical prostatectomy; however, outcomes have not been superior."