In 1998 Guillonneau and Vallancien introduced laparoscopic radical prostatectomy with primary access to the seminal vesicle. In 1999 we developed a different laparoscopic technique similar to the classic retropubic radical prostatectomy. We focus on early results and the learning curve of the procedure in the first 180 patients.
A transperitoneal approach is used with immediate access to Retzius' space. After the dorsal vein complex is endoscopically sutured, the urethra is incised and distal pedicles of the prostate with or without the neurovascular bundle transected. The apex is then pulled ventrally followed with incision at the bladder neck, and transvesical access to vas deferens and seminal vesicle. After completing the posterior wall of the urethrovesical anastomosis with 5 interrupted endoscopic sutures, the Foley catheter is placed, bladder neck closed and specimen extracted via the umbilical incision. From March 1999 to December 2000 we have performed 180 procedures, including 3 for stage pT1 tumor, 88 pT2, 82 pT3 and 7 pT4. Mean preoperative PSA was 13.3 ng./ml. (range 1.4 to 148), mean specimen weight 37.4 gm. (10 to 125) and median Gleason score 6 (3 to 9). For evaluation of the learning curve a separate analysis of 3 groups with 60 patients in each was done. Differences between groups 1 (first 60 patients) and 3 (last 60) were analyzed for statistically significant differences.
Mean operating time was 271 minutes (range 150 to 500) and transfusion rate 31%. The reintervention rate was 4.4% and complication rate 18.8%. Of the patients 92% did not require any analgesia on postoperative day 2. Positive margins were found in 16% of the patients. The rate of positive margins in pT2 tumors was 2.3%, pT3a 15% and pT3b 34%. After a median followup of 12 months (range 3 to 23) in 9 (5%) patients a prostate specific antigen relapse was observed. The anastomosis was tight after removal of the catheter in 83% of patients, with a median time of 7 days (range 5 to 30). An anastomotic stricture had to be treated with laser incision in 3.3% of patients. On discharge from the hospital 33% of patients were continent, after 6 months 74% and after 12 months 97%. Analysis of the learning curve revealed significant differences in operating time (324 versus 265 minutes), conversion rate to open surgery (8.1% versus 1.7%), complication rate (23.3% versus 11.7%) and rate of prolonged catheterization (31.6% versus 10%, respectively), whereas the percentage of positive margins and continence rates showed no influence.
Laparoscopic radical prostatectomy requires significant laparoscopic expertise with an ongoing learning curve. Morbidity is low, oncological control similar to results of open surgery and functional results are promising. The procedure should be performed only at dedicated centers with adequate training and expertise.