Low-intensity electrostimulation has been shown to enhance peripheral nerve regeneration. Can it stimulate regeneration in the nerves that control erection, and improve recovery of erectile function after prostatectomy? Arthur Burnett, M.D., the Patrick C. Walsh Professor of Urology, is leading a study to find out.
“Despite such modern advances as nervesparing techniques and robotic surgical technology, the cavernous nerves surrounding the prostate that are responsible for penile erection are invariably jarred at surgery,” says Burnett. “The phenomenon is often just temporary, and many men may recover erection ability in time – although recovery may be delayed for as much as two to three years, and in some cases erection recovery is incomplete.”
To help maximize recovery of these nerves, Burnett and his laboratory team are collaborating with Swiss colleagues, experts in bioengineering, at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. In a rodent model of minor cavernous nerve injury that mimics the nerve trauma of nerve-sparing prostatectomy, these investigators surgically implanted a low-intensity electrostimulation device. Their results, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S174360952200580X), are encouraging: “The implanted device enhanced cavernous nerve regeneration and function, and improved erection recovery,” says Burnett. Based on this promising study, the team is progressing toward clinical testing in patients at the time of prostatectomy.