Even nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy damages the cavernous nerves and leads to temporary erectile dysfunction (ED) in men recovering from prostate cancer surgery. Historically, patients recovering from prostate cancer surgery have been advised that the return of erectile function (EF) can take from 6 to 18 months, or even longer. Unfortunately, the return of sexual function in these patients remains variable, but is generally thought to be dependent on the individual patient's pre-surgery EF, as well as the degree of cavernous nerve disruption during prostate removal. Recently, there has been a growing movement to proactively treat patients postoperatively for presumed nerve damage to stimulate nerve recovery and possibly reduce the degree of irreversible damage. This would reduce the on-demand therapy these patients would require, and hopefully remove the requirement for an implantable prosthesis. The underlying hypothesis is that the artificial induction of erections shortly after surgery facilitates tissue oxygenation, reducing cavernosal fibrosis in the absence of nocturnal erections, potentially increasing the likelihood of preserving EF. Vacuum erection devices (VED), because of their ability to draw blood into the penis regardless of nerve disturbance, have become the centerpiece of penile rehabilitation protocols. This review will discuss the pathophysiology of radical prostatectomy induced ED and the rationale for rehabilitation. It will then discuss current protocols, including those involving the VED.
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Lehrfeld, T., Lee, D. The role of vacuum erection devices in penile rehabilitation after radical prostatectomy. Int J Impot Res 21, 158–164 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijir.2009.3
- prostate cancer
- radical prostatectomy
- erectile dysfunction
- penile rehabilitation
- vacuum erection device
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