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Eur Urol. 2005 Feb;47(2):167-75.

Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: prospective evaluation of the learning curve.

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Department of Urology and Pediatric Urology, Krankenhaus Nordwest, Teaching Hospital of the Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-University Frankfurt, Steinbacher Hohl 2-26, D-60488 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.



We prospectively evaluated the learning curve (LC) of laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (L-RPE) regarding the improvements in operative times (OT) and technical difficulty in one-operator-practice as it compares with open RPE.


Over 18 months, 50 L-RPE were performed by an inexperienced surgeon in laparoscopy but skilled in open surgery. Difficulty scores were obtained at the completion of each L-RPE comparing L-RPE to open RPE. OT, estimated blood loss (EBL), length of stay, and catheterization time were also obtained.


In the ablative part of L-RPE the median difficulty score was significantly higher (p<0.001) for the first 10 cases, decreased dramatically by case 11 becoming equivalent (p=0.3) to open RPE and by case 31 the L-RPE becomes significantly easier than open RPE (p=0.002). The difficulty scores for the urethrovesical anastomosis performance is always uniformly higher for the whole patient series (p<0.001). Median OT decreased significantly from 293 minutes in the first 10 cases to 114 minutes in the last 10 cases (p<0.001). Catheterization time and length of hospitalization, decreased significantly with the progression of the LC. EBL remained stable throughout the patient cases. Obesity, prior surgery, and extension of the procedure (lymphadenectomy, nerve-sparing) significantly increased the OT.


Although the ablative part of L-RPE has a relatively short LC for a skilled open surgeon reflected by the rapid decrease in difficulty scores and OT by case 21, the performance of anastomosis shows a longer LC. Intensive training on anastomosis may be necessary to master this skill.

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