Delineation of the neurovascular bundles had made it possible to identify the branches of the pelvic plexus to the corpora cavernosa intraoperatively and to decide whether the bundles can be preserved or resected widely with the specimen. In the course of performing 312 radical retropubic prostatectomies the neurovascular bundle was widely excised unilaterally in 49 men with advanced clinical disease in whom, based on preoperative or intraoperative assessment, the bundle appeared to be involved by tumor. Because of this selection criterion these patients had higher clinical stage (52 per cent had clinical stage B2) and pathological stage (35 per cent had microscopic involvement of pelvic lymph nodes) disease than our previously reported series. In 38 patients the margins of resection were negative for tumor. In 11 patients despite attempts at wide excision of the lesion the surgical margins of resection were positive. In all 11 men with positive surgical margins there was extensive periprostatic extension of tumor and 8 had involvement of the pelvic lymph nodes. However, in none of the 11 patients with positive surgical margins were the margins positive only at the site where the bundle was spared, which shows that unilateral sparing of the neurovascular bundle did not compromise removal of tumor. Of the 29 men who were potent preoperatively and who have been followed for 1 year or longer postoperatively 20 (69 per cent) are potent. The return of sexual function correlated with age: 5 of 5 men (100 per cent) 40 to 49 years old were potent postoperatively compared to 8 of 10 (80 per cent) 50 to 59 years old and 7 of 14 (50 per cent) 60 to 69 years old. Histological evaluation of the resected specimens revealed that some of the men who were potent postoperatively had soft tissue and nerves resected in the region of the contralateral spared neurovascular bundle. By measuring nerves in the spared region of the neurovascular bundle we found that the role of the neurovascular bundles in potency is not owing to large nerves but to many nerves in varying size. In conclusion, potency can be maintained after radical prostatectomy in most patients in whom it is necessary to excise 1 neurovascular bundle widely without compromising the removal of tumor.
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