Objectives: To describe a technique using the da Vinci robotic system that enhances one's ability to visualize and dissect the apex and reduce surgical margins. An important outcome of radical prostatectomy is the reduction of iatrogenic positive margins in organ-confined prostate cancer.
Technical considerations: The clinical data of our first 140 consecutive robot-assisted radical prostatectomies were divided into two groups: group 1, cases 1 to 50; and group 2, cases 51 to 140. After reviewing the surgical margin data and appropriate video clips of our initial 50 patients, we altered our technique. Initially, we had used two sutures to control the dorsal venous complex (DVC), one proximally and distally. The prostate was freed, and, finally, the DVC and urethra were divided. However, a bundle of fat obscured the apex, leading to positive apical margins. We developed the following method. First, we removed all of the fat overlying the DVC and prostate. Second, we divided the puboprostatic ligaments and dissected the levator fibers to expose and increase the DVC length fully. Finally, we stapled and divided the DVC using a vascular stapler.
Results: The two groups were clinically comparable. Overall, the pathologic margin rate improved from 36% in group 1 to 16.7% in group 2. In group 1, 9 (27.3%) of 33 pT2 tumors had positive margins versus 3 (4.7%) of 64 pT2 tumors in group 2 (P = 0.003).
Conclusions: The data demonstrate that this change in technique for robotic prostatectomy resulted in a more defined apical dissection and a statistically significant reduction in positive margins in patients with organ-confined disease.