SAN DIEGO--Sural nerve grafting is a new procedure that may allow
prostate patients undergoing radical prostatectomy to maintain sexual potency.
With limited information currently available about the procedure, the
ambulatory nurse’s role in educating these patients can be critical in
alleviating anxiety and stress, said Mary Schoen, RN, MSN, MPH, a clinical
nurse in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Urology Department.
Ms. Schoen and her colleague, Dominique DePalma, RN, MA, OCN, also a
clinical nurse in the Urology Department, discussed the importance of providing
support and education to this population at the 26th Annual Conference of the
Oncology Nursing Society (abstract 72).
If tumor invasion into the neurovascular bundle branches is detected during
surgery, the nerves allowing erectile function must be resected.
"For men unable to have nerve-sparing surgery, the surgeon will perform
a sural nerve graft, taking a nerve from around the ankle bone and placing it
around the prostate," Ms. Schoen said. Sural nerve graft patients are
expected to regain erectile function within 14 to 18 months after the surgery.
Patients are extremely nervous prior to the surgery and even after surgery,
the nurses said. "We get a lot of phone calls. They need a great deal of
support," Ms. Schoen said. "Our job is to provide patient education,
do referrals to erectile dysfunction specialists, start them on Viagra, and
just reassure them." Ms. DePalma noted that the men who have the surgery
have more advanced cancer than other patients, so they may need more education
Said Ms. Schoen: "We’re educating other nurses about this new
procedure so that they, in turn, can help alleviate patient concerns and make
the appropriate referrals."