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Impotence, Incontinence Risk Casts Doubt on High-Tech Prostate Surgery
Date:10/13/2009

Marketing is buoying use of the technique, researchers say, but surgeon's experience is key

TUESDAY, Oct. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Heightened risks for post-operative incontinence and impotence may outweigh any benefits from minimally invasive "keyhole" surgery for prostate cancer, a new study suggests.

The presumed good stemming from the robotic technique are being oversold to a public that is all too willing to believe, said Dr. Jim C. Hu, a genitourinary surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who led the study.

"Given the expense of the procedure and the hype around it, expectations are being raised that are too high," said Hu, whose team published the findings in the Oct. 14 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Men who have the prostate-removing surgery, which requires only a small incision and is helped along by robotic technology, do get out of the hospital faster than those who have the older operation, according to the report. Patients who underwent the more high-tech surgery spent an average of two days hospitalized rather than the three-days seen with traditional procedure. They were also less likely to require blood transfusions or suffer respiratory or surgical complications, researchers found.

But the study of more than 8,800 men also found a higher incidence of genitourinary complications, including impotence and incontinence, among those having the keyhole procedure (4.7 percent) versus those who got traditional surgery (2.1 percent).

And yet the popularity of minimally invasive prostatectomy, especially when done with robotic assistance, continues to grow. It accounted for more than 40 percent of all prostate operations in 2006, up from 1 percent in 2001, the report said.

That growth has been fueled by "widespread direct-to-consumer advertising," according to the report.

The minimally invasive technique is especially popular among p
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