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Urology. 1999 May;53(5):881-90; discussion 890-1.

Urinary function after radical prostatectomy: a comparison of the retropubic and perineal approaches.

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Department of Urology, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville 22908, USA.



Urinary continence is one of the most significant outcomes after radical surgery for prostate cancer. Although both retropubic and perineal approaches to radical prostatectomy are commonly used, they have not yet been compared with respect to urinary continence and voiding function in a single-institution study using a validated patient-administered instrument. This study had two primary objectives: first, to assess whether differences exist between these two procedures with respect to the overall prevalence and resolution of postoperative urinary incontinence, and second, to determine the impact of the urinary incontinence on patient lifestyle in this patient population.


A written instrument composed of the Urinary Function Questionnaire for Men after Radical Prostatectomy, the American Urological Association (AUA) Symptom Score, and seven items querying urinary retention and urinary function bother were mailed in February 1996 to 209 men who underwent radical prostatectomy by either the perineal (43%) or retropubic (57%) approach between January 1990 and December 1995. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the prevalence of urinary incontinence and urinary function bother as reported from this cross-sectional questionnaire. Logistic regression models were used to assess the association between reported urinary incontinence and surgical approach, AUA symptom scores, and treatment of incontinence after adjusting for possible confounders (eg, the time between surgery and questionnaire, and patient age).


One hundred sixty-seven men (80%) responded to the questionnaire. The median age of the participants at questionnaire administration was 68 years (range 43 to 80). Overall, 57% (95% confidence interval [CI] 50% to 63%) of the responders reported complete urinary continence at the time of the questionnaire, with a median time between surgery and the questionnaire of 2.7 years (range 0.3 to 5.4). When continence was defined as either complete dryness or minimal urinary leakage, 75% (95% CI 69% to 81%) of the responders reported being continent. In men who responded to the questionnaire within 2 years of surgery, the probability of experiencing complete urinary continence was similar between the two surgical approaches. In men who responded to the questionnaire more than 2 years after surgery, patients who had undergone perineal prostatectomy were more likely to report complete continence than those who underwent retropubic surgery. However, this observed difference disappears when continence was defined as either complete dryness or minimal urinary leakage. The major impact of urinary incontinence on patient lifestyle was observed in patients with more than just minimal leakage.


Radical perineal and radical retropubic prostatectomy have similar outcomes when patients with minor degrees of incontinence are grouped together with continent patients. Since the impact of a minimal degree of urinary incontinence on the patient's lifestyle after radical prostatectomy seems to be minor, currently we do not believe that postoperative continence status is a major factor in choosing one procedure over the other.

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