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Erectile dysfunction, also known as ED, is the inability to get and maintain an erection hard enough to have intercourse. 90 percent of men experience ED after having a prostatectomy, surgery to remove part or all of the prostate gland.
ED is a normal side effect of prostate removal. Post-prostatectomy ED doesn't seem to happen more often with one type of prostatectomy over another.
Prostatectomy tends to cause ED because the surgery weakens the pelvic floor, a part of the body that's vital to getting an erection. Located just under the bladder and behind the base of the penis, the pelvic floor contains many muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. In order to get an erection, the brain needs to send signals through these nerves, the blood vessels must allow enough blood to flow into the penis, and pelvic floor muscles have to squeeze blood into the penis. If any of these parts are damaged during surgery, you may not be able to get and keep an erection.
Symptoms of post-prostatectomy ED are the same as symptoms for regular ED. These include:
Even though it's very common, ED can also cause some men to feel embarrassed. In addition, it might cause stress for you and your sexual partner.
While ED is a known complication after prostate removal, your doctor will examine your genital area to confirm the cause of your ED. They may ask you to get blood tests in order to check your hormones and general health, and a urine test.
Your doctor may request extra tests, including:
One of the most important components of treating ED is penile rehabilitation — using or exercising your penis in order to maintain its ability to become erect.
Rehabilitative treatments your doctor may recommend include: