Prostatectomy Risks

A radical prostatectomy is performed to handle prostate cancer. This surgery takes out the prostate gland, the seminal vesicles and some additional localized tissue. Lymph nodes located in the pelvis are typically also removed (pelvic lymph node dissection) to be tested for cancer cells. This surgery is done to prevent the spread of cancer (metastasizes) to areas outside of the prostate.


Impotence is a risk factor of prostatectomy. Erection difficulties arise in about 7 or 8 of every 10 men who have a prostatectomy, notes the Better Health Channel. This surgery often damages the nerves in the penis. The risk of impotency after prostatectomy is highest in men who had erectile difficulties prior to the surgery.


Problems controlling urine arise after about one-third of prostatectomy procedures. Urine may leak from the penis due to injury to the sphincter during surgery. While a few men may need surgery to fix the incontinence, typically the incontinence is not permanent and clears up within three months to a year.

Damage to Rectum

Damage to the rectum is another possible risk of prostatectomy. This often leads to problems with bowel movements such as fecal incontinence.

Urethral Stricture

A urethral stricture (scarring) is a possible side effect of prostatectomy surgery. Problematic scar tissue forms at the spot where the urethra was reattached to the bladder; it will cause a blockage that will change or block the flow pattern of urinary output. This side effect is rare.

Damage to Bladder and Ureters

Damage to the bladder and ureters are risks of prostatectomy. These two organs are located quite close to the prostate. Thus, injuries to them sometimes do occur during this surgery.

Heart Attack and Stroke

Heart attack and stroke are risks for any surgery, including prostatectomy. Many patients who have prostate cancer are within the typical age range for a heart attack or stroke.


Infection is also a risk of prostatectomy. The infection may occur in the urinary tract, the chest, at the surgery incision or via an IV needle site. Signs of infection often include fever, swelling of the skin at the infection site and pus.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is a known risk of prostatectomy. Blood clots may form in the legs during this surgery. Thus, blood thinning drugs are used prior to surgery to help prevent clots; stockings designed to prevent deep vein thrombosis are also typically worn during and after the surgery.


Unexpected bleeding is another risk of prostatectomy; if this occurs a blood transfusion will be needed.


A rare side effect of a prostatectomy procedure is death. This risk for death from this surgery is low, notes the Prostate Cancer Institute.

About this Author

Julia Bodeeb worked on staff in medical book/journal publishing for over a decade as a reporter, managing editor, and book acquisitions. She is now a writer at LIVESTRONG, Bright Hub, Associated Content, and Seed. Ms. Bodeeb has a B.A. in English and postgraduate credits in psychology and law. She won a Pulitzer Center Global Issues/Citizen Voices Award in 2008.