Objectives. To better define the techniques of nerve-sparing prostate dissection that would result in preservation of erectile function, we characterize the effects of physical pressure on the prostate and cavernous nerve, electrical stimulation of the cavernous nerve, and pharmacologic manipulations on intracavernous pressure (ICP) in normal and diabetic rats. Methods. Fischer-34 rats, both normal and diabetic, underwent dissections that isolated the cavernous bodies and cavernous nerves. Cavernous body pressures were characterized during surgical manipulation, during electrical stimulation of the cavernous nerves, and following papaverine hydrochloride injection. Results. In normal rats, baseline cavernous pressures ranged from 5 to 15 cm H2O (mean 12.29). In diabetic rats, the baseline pressure was significantly lower (3 to 7.5 cm H2O). Lateral nerve displacement caused ICP to rise to approximately 35 cm H2O in normal rats, but only to 20 cm H2O in diabetic rats. Electrostimulation resulted in cavernous pressure increases of 10-fold from baseline in normal rats and sevenfold from baseline in diabetic rats. ICPs were not disturbed appreciably with nerve-sparing dissection techniques. Neurotomy resulted in declines in baseline cavernous pressures in all rats. Electrostimulation of the distal end of a severed nerve resulted in pressure rises to 50% of those observed in rats with intact cavernous nerves. Intracavernous papaverine injection before or after nerve stimulation masked subsequent (expected) pressure changes. Conclusions. A change in cavernous pressure is a sensitive indicator of cavernous nerve manipulation. Both cavernous pressure measurements and electrostimulation of cavernous nerves may aid surgeons during radical prostatectomy.
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