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Nerve-Sparing Prostate Surgery Helps Men Retain Sexual Function

THURSDAY, Feb. 16 (HealthDay News) -- Most men who have surgery for prostate cancer can still achieve orgasm if the nerves that surround their prostate gland are not removed, according to a new study.

Researchers from Cornell University say a man's age and the number of his nerves that are spared will play a role in his ability to climax after surgery.

The study followed 408 men who underwent a procedure to remove their prostate, known as robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, between 2005 and 2007 for an average of three years. Men had mean age of 60 years and all were able to have an orgasm before the procedure.

Seventy-four percent of the men were able to have their nerves spared bilaterally, or on both sides. Of those men, 91 percent experienced no change in their ability to achieve orgasm following the surgery.

About 13 percent of the men had their nerves spared on only one side. Of this group, 82 percent of the men had the same ability to reach orgasm. Another 12 percent had little or no nerve sparing, with 62 percent of them were still able to achieve orgasm the same way they did before the operation.

The men's age also played a role in their ability to orgasm. The study, published in the February issue of BJUI, showed orgasm rates were significantly higher in men younger than 60 who had their nerves spared on both sides. Orgasm rates dropped by 10 percent to 83 percent among men older than 60, even if their nerves were spared on both sides.

A questionnaire completed by 156 of the men who were able to achieve orgasm after surgery revealed 82 percent had high satisfaction rates. Another 10 percent said they had moderate satisfaction and 7 percent reported low satisfaction. Roughly 3 percent of the men said they experienced a painful orgasm.

"As far as we are aware, this is the largest analysis of orgasmic function in the robotic prostatectomy literature and will provide valuable information for surgeons talking to patients about what sort of sexual function they can expect after surgery," study author Dr. Ashutosh Tewari, director of the Prostate Cancer Institute and the LeFrak Robotic Surgery Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on prostate cancer.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Wiley-Blackwell, news release, Feb. 13, 2012

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