Medical Studies

Expectations and Prostate Surgery

The N.Y. Times Well Blog writes that 19% of men regretted having prostate surgery. What is interesting is that men who underwent a newer, less invasive, robotic surgery were four times more likely to regret the prostate surgery than those who underwent the older, more invasive “open” procedure.

Is this increase in regret due to worse outcomes?  This is likely not the case.  Instead, it may be that doctors are inflating the patient’s expectations of how life will be like after the robotic surgery:

Part of the problem may be that doctors who perform robotic prostatectomies commonly cite potency rates as high as 95 percent and above among their patients, giving patients an unrealistic view of life after surgery.

But the data are highly misleading. Researchers often define potency as simply being able to achieve an erection that is “adequate” for intercourse — but for many men, that definition doesn’t capture their ongoing struggle to return to a normal sex life. Earlier this year, researchers from George Washington University and New York University used a more realistic definition of potency, showing that after surgery, fewer than half of the men studied felt their sex lives had returned to normal within a year.

The success of a surgery may not only depend on the technical skill a physician exhibits, but also how they are able to control the patient’s expectations so that they are able to lead a satisfying life after their surgery.