What are possible side effects of a prostatectomy?

The two main side effects of prostatectomy, says Jayram Krishnan, DO, a urologist at Sunrise Hospital, are loss of erection and urine leakage. In this video, he discusses how a urologist can help address both of these conditions.
Total radical prostatectomy, in which the entire prostate gland is removed from around the urethra, is a very safe surgery with few life-threatening complications. However, there are side effects that are common with this procedure. They are:
  • urinary incontinence: not being able to hold the urine stream, resulting in leaking urine
  • impotence: inability to achieve and maintain an erection
The risk for these side effects increases with age. This is why it is often recommended that younger men have surgery and that older men have radiation. Talk to your surgeon about their complication rates before your operation. Sometimes, with lower-grade and smaller cancers, a nerve-sparing prostatectomy can be done. This type of prostatectomy can help decrease the chances that you will be impotent after the procedure. However, there is always a risk, and not every patient is a candidate for a nerve-sparing surgery.
With surgery, urinary incontinence and impotence are often most severe right after the operation and get better with time. Your doctor or nurse can offer exercises to help you deal with incontinence. If your ability to have an erection does not return on its own, there are many treatment options available.

There are ways to reduce any long-term side effects. These include oral medications, urethral suppositories, penile injections and external vacuum devices, or penile prostheses. Talk to your urologist about your options.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.