Prostate Cancer

Robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy

Robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy is a modern technique for treating localised prostate cancer. Few centres in the UK offer this procedure but many are training to do so. 

Laparoscopic surgery; also known as keyhole surgery, uses instruments inserted through narrow hollow tubes ('ports') rather than through a larger incision, as in traditional surgery. This type of surgery has the potential for shorter hospitalisation and convalescence, less bleeding and post-operative pain, and fewer wound complications, but randomised trials are still needed to assess outcomes.

The first robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy was performed in 2000. In 2007 we talked to a 48-year-old man, Mike, three months after he had had this treatment in the National Health Service and in 2010 we talked to another man, John, a year after he had this type of surgery.

Between 2005 and 2006 Mike had had some urinary symptoms, had a raised PSA (about 12 ng per ml.), was referred to a consultant and had a prostate biopsy. During the biopsy and other investigations his privacy and dignity were not always respected (see 'Biopsy for prostate cancer').

Having been given the diagnosis of prostate cancer he found out about different treatment options and decided which would suit him best.  After having urinary symptoms for some time John was also diagnosed with prostate cancer. He explained why he decided to have a robot assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy and not brachytherapy or any other type of treatment.

Mike and John both talked about pre-operative care, their operations, post-operative recovery and the side effects of surgery.

Audio onlyText only
Read below

Mike was in hospital for three days. On the first day he had more investigations and was seen by various doctors, including the anaesthetist, and by a specialist urology nurse. He had prepared for the procedure by doing pelvic floor exercises for 2-3 weeks pre-operatively.

A catheter was inserted during the operation, and a drain attached to a tube on one side of the abdomen. On the first post-operative day Mike got out of bed unaided and could go home that afternoon.

“Some men have problems with urinary incontinence. This can range from leaking small drips of urine, to leaking larger amounts. However, for most men, this usually clears up within three to six months of the operation. About two in every 10 men have long-term problems requiring the use of pads.” (NHS Choices 2016).​ Mike had his catheter removed after 10 days. He stayed one night in hospital after the catheter had been removed and was pleased to find that he was not incontinent. He was glad that he had done the pelvic floor exercises before his operation. 

Men who suffer from incontinence have various options, including special pelvic floor exercises, pads, catheters, medical therapies and surgical intervention. Surgery includes the ‘male sling’ and the artificial urinary sphincter. Surgical intervention is usually considered 1-2 years after prostatectomy (also see our summary 'Urinary incontinence').  

Some men may have problems getting an erection (erectile dysfunction) after the surgery. This can improve with time for some men, but around half will have long-term problems (NHS Choices 2016). 

Mike was glad he had chosen this type of treatment. Three months after surgery his PSA reading was 0.1ng per ml. He will continue to have regular check-ups. John was also glad that he had had this operation. He believes that he had exactly the right treatment.

It is important to note that this is only based on two men's experiences of robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. 

Laparoscopic and robot-assisted prostatectomy are seen as more expensive then open surgery because of the expense of the equipment and it is normally only offered in specialised cancer centres with specially trained clinicians. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines 2014 (CG175) states “Commissioners should ensure that robotic systems for the surgical treatment of localised prostate cancer are cost effective by basing them in centres that are expected to perform at least 150 robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomies per year".

Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated July 2017.


Please use the form below to tell us what you think of the site. We’d love to hear about how we’ve helped you, how we could improve or if you have found something that’s broken on the site. We are a small team but will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Please note that we are unable to accept article submissions or offer medical advice. If you are affected by any of the issues covered on this website and need to talk to someone in confidence, please contact The Samaritans or your Doctor.

Make a Donation to

Find out more about how you can help us.

Send to a friend

Simply fill out this form and we'll send them an email