Prostatectomy for Prostate Cancer

Prostatectomy is a surgery that removes the prostate gland. Prostatectomy also removes some tissue around the prostate and may remove nearby lymph nodes if the cancer has spread there. Prostatectomy is done to treat prostate cancer that is localized (confined to the prostate) or locally advanced (spread to nearby tissues). There are different ways to perform prostatectomy, depending on the surgeon's preference, the patient's condition, and the availability of equipment. The main types of prostatectomy are: open radical prostatectomy, laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, and robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy.

Radical Prostatectomy.
Prostatectomy is a surgery that removes the prostate gland. Source.

What is open radical prostatectomy?

Open radical prostatectomy is a surgical procedure for treating prostate cancer, where the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissues are removed through an incision. This traditional method can be performed with either a retropubic incision (in the lower abdomen) or a perineal incision (in the space between the anus and scrotum). It offers direct access to the prostate, allowing the surgeon to feel the gland and surrounding tissues, which can be beneficial in certain cases. Recovery may involve a longer hospital stay compared to less invasive methods.

What is laparoscopic radical prostatectomy?

Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to remove the prostate gland in prostate cancer patients. In this procedure, small incisions are made in the abdomen, and long surgical instruments, along with a camera, are inserted to perform the surgery. This method results in smaller scars, potentially less pain, and a shorter recovery period compared to open surgery. However, it requires significant surgical skill and experience due to limited tactile feedback and the complexity of the procedure.

What is robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy?

Robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy is a minimally invasive approach to removing the prostate gland using robotic technology. The surgeon controls robotic arms equipped with surgical instruments from a console, offering enhanced precision, flexibility, and control. This method provides the surgeon with a magnified, high-definition 3D view of the surgical site. It typically results in less blood loss, smaller incisions, quicker recovery, and potentially better preservation of urinary and sexual function compared to traditional open surgery. However, the success of this technique largely depends on the surgeon's expertise and experience with robotic systems.

What is Retzius sparing prostatectomy?

Retzius sparing prostatectomy is a surgical approach for prostate cancer treatment that avoids disrupting the Retzius space, an area in the front of the bladder. This technique, often performed robotically, accesses the prostate from behind (posteriorly), preserving the structures in the Retzius space, such as the bladder and its supporting tissues. The primary advantage is a potential improvement in urinary continence recovery post-surgery, as the natural support of the bladder and urinary sphincter is maintained. It is suitable for certain patients depending on the prostate's anatomy and cancer characteristics.

What is pelvic lymph node dissection during prostatectomy?

Pelvic lymph node dissection during prostatectomy involves the removal of lymph nodes in the pelvic region to check for the spread of prostate cancer. This procedure is typically performed during radical prostatectomy when there is a significant risk of cancer spreading beyond the prostate gland. By analyzing the removed lymph nodes, pathologists can determine if cancer cells have spread to these nodes, which is crucial for staging the cancer and deciding on further treatment. The extent of lymph node dissection can vary based on the patient's risk and the surgeon's judgment.

What is nerve sparing in prostatectomy?

Nerve-sparing in prostatectomy is a surgical technique aimed at preserving the nerves that control erectile function, which run alongside the prostate gland. This approach is used during radical prostatectomy, where the surgeon carefully dissects and preserves these delicate nerves while removing the prostate. The goal is to maintain erectile function post-surgery, a significant concern for many patients undergoing prostate cancer treatment. Nerve-sparing is not always possible, depending on the cancer's location and extent. The feasibility of this technique and its success rate depend on various factors, including the patient's pre-surgery erectile function and the cancer's proximity to the nerves.

What are positive and negative surgical margins in prostatectomy?

A positive surgical margin in prostatectomy indicates that cancer cells are found at the edge of the removed tissue, suggesting that some cancer may have been left behind. This can occur if the cancer extends to the edge of the prostate and is not fully excised during surgery. A positive margin may increase the risk of prostate cancer recurrence. Conversely, a negative surgical margin means no cancer cells are found at the edges of the removed tissue, implying that the cancer was likely completely removed, which is a favorable outcome in prostate cancer surgery. This result generally indicates a lower risk of cancer recurrence, though continuous monitoring is still essential.

What are the benefits and risks of prostatectomy?

Prostatectomy, a surgical procedure for prostate cancer, offers potential benefits such as curing or controlling the spread of cancer and relieving symptoms from an enlarged or cancerous prostate. This can enhance survival rates and quality of life. However, it carries risks and side effects, including bleeding, infection, damage to nearby organs or nerves, urinary issues like incontinence or stricture, sexual dysfunction, infertility, and lymphedema. The severity and permanence of these side effects vary, influenced by the surgery type, surgeon's expertise, patient's age and health, cancer stage and grade, and whether nerve-sparing techniques were used. Some side effects may improve over time or require additional treatment.

How do I prepare for prostatectomy?

The short answer is to follow the instructions of your healthcare team. These could include necessary tests and consultations, including blood and urine tests, imaging like ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan, a biopsy, digital rectal examination, and a PSA test. Discuss with your surgeon the surgery type, benefits, risks, potential outcomes, alternatives, and the recovery process. Key questions for your surgeon might involve their experience, success and complication rates, type of anesthesia, hospital stay duration, pain management, recovery monitoring, cancer treatment efficacy, risks of urinary or sexual problems, coping strategies, and potential post-surgery treatments. Consider getting a second opinion. Before the procedure, quit smoking, stop certain medications, follow pre-surgery fasting guidelines, and arrange for post-surgery transportation and assistance.

What to expect after prostatectomy?

After a prostatectomy, you will be in a recovery room under observation for a few hours. You will have a catheter in your penis for urine drainage, an abdominal drain for blood or fluid removal, an IV line for fluids and medications, and a dressing on your wound. Expect some pain, discomfort, or numbness, managed with painkillers, and possibly nausea. Hospital stay typically lasts 1 to 3 days, during which vital signs, wound, drain, catheter, and PSA levels are regularly checked. You will receive blood thinners, physiotherapy, and dietary advice. Discharge depends on pain control, wound healing, catheter management, urinary function, and basic mobility. Upon leaving, you will get a discharge summary, medication prescriptions, follow-up appointments, and referrals to specialists if necessary.

How to recover from prostatectomy?

Recovery from a prostatectomy can span several weeks or months, varying with the surgery type and personal factors. During recovery, it is important to rest, avoiding heavy lifting, driving, or cycling. Careful wound care and hygiene, staying hydrated, and maintaining a balanced diet are essential. Performing pelvic floor exercises can strengthen muscles for better urinary and erectile control. Managing urinary leakage with pads or diapers and using aids for erectile dysfunction may be necessary. Emotional well-being is also crucial; seek support for any mental health concerns. Regular follow-ups for progress checks and PSA monitoring are important, with additional tests or treatments if there's any indication of cancer recurrence or spread.

How often do I have to follow up after prostatectomy?

Post-prostatectomy, follow-up frequency varies based on individual factors and the surgery's outcome. Initially, frequent check-ups may be necessary, typically every 3 to 6 months. These visits usually include PSA tests to monitor for cancer recurrence. Over time, if no issues arise, the interval between appointments may extend to annually. It is essential to adhere to your doctor's recommended schedule for optimal post-surgical care.

How is my sexual function affected by prostatectomy?

Sexual function can be impacted by prostatectomy, particularly erectile function. Nerve-sparing techniques may preserve sexual function, but some degree of change is common. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a potential side effect, and its severity depends on factors like age, pre-surgery sexual function, and surgical technique. Various treatments for ED are available, including medications, devices, or counseling.

Can I live a normal life after prostatectomy?

Many men return to a normal life after prostatectomy. While recovery varies, most resume daily activities within a few weeks. Adjustments may be needed for urinary control or sexual function. With time, pelvic floor exercises, lifestyle changes, and medical support, quality of life often returns to pre-surgery levels.

Does prostatectomy affect my life expectancy?

Prostatectomy, especially when performed for localized cancer, can have a positive impact on life expectancy by effectively treating the cancer. The long-term outlook depends on cancer's nature and stage. Early-stage cancers treated with prostatectomy generally have a favorable prognosis.

Does prostatectomy affect fertility?

Prostatectomy does affect fertility, as it removes the prostate gland and seminal vesicles, both of which are integral to producing semen. After the surgery, men typically become infertile, meaning they cannot father a child through natural means. This is because ejaculation of semen is no longer possible, although orgasm may still occur. For men who wish to father children after prostatectomy, options like sperm banking or assisted reproductive technologies can be considered prior to the surgery. It is important for patients to discuss fertility concerns and options with their doctor before undergoing prostatectomy.


Prostatectomy is a significant surgical procedure for treating prostate cancer, with various implications for a patient's recovery, lifestyle, and long-term health. Post-surgery, patients should adhere to follow-up schedules for optimal recovery and monitoring. While the procedure can impact sexual function and fertility, there are treatments and strategies to manage these changes. Many men adapt well post-prostatectomy and can lead normal, active lives. The impact on life expectancy is generally positive, especially when treating localized prostate cancer. It is crucial for patients to have thorough discussions with their healthcare providers about all aspects of prostatectomy to make informed decisions.

Further Reading

  1. van Poppel H, Everaerts W, Tosco L, Joniau S. Open and robotic radical prostatectomy. Asian J Urol. 2019 Apr;6(2):125-128. PMID: 31061797.
  2. Hugosson J, Stranne J, Carlsson SV. Radical retropubic prostatectomy: a review of outcomes and side-effects. Acta Oncol. 2011 Jun:50 Suppl 1:92-7. PMID: 21604947.
  3. Dirie NI, Pokhrel G, Guan W, Mumin MA, Yang J, Masau JF et al. Is Retzius-sparing robot-assisted radical prostatectomy associated with better functional and oncological outcomes? Literature review and meta-analysis. Asian J Urol. 2019 Apr;6(2):174-182. PMID: 31061804.
  4. Tillu ND, Kulkarni JN. Long-term comparative outcome analysis of a robot-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomy with retropubic radical prostatectomy by a single surgeon. J Robot Surg. 2023 Apr;17(2):677-685. PMID: 36306101.

Disclaimer: This blog post is intended solely for informational purposes, based on the references cited. It is not meant to serve as medical advice. For professional medical guidance, please consult your doctor.


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