Surgical damage to the pelvic autonomic nerves during radical hysterectomy is thought to be responsible for considerable morbidity, i.e., impaired bladder function, defecation problems, and sexual dysfunction. Previous anatomical studies and detailed study of surgical techniques in various Japanese oncology centers demonstrated that the anatomy of the pelvic autonomic nerve plexus permits a systematic surgical approach to preserve these nerves during radical hysterectomy without compromising radicality. We introduced elements of the Japanese nerve-preserving techniques and carried out a feasibility study in ten consecutive Dutch patients. The technique involved three steps: first, the identification and preservation of the hypogastric nerve in a loose tissue sheath underneath the ureter and lateral to the sacro-uterine ligaments; second, the inferior hypogastric plexus in the parametrium is lateralized and avoided during parametrial transsection; third, the most distal part of the inferior hypogastric plexus is preserved during the dissection of the posterior part of the vesico-uterine ligament. The clinical study showed that the procedure is feasible and safe, except possibly when used with very obese patients and patients with broad, bulky tumors. Surgical preservation of the pelvic autonomic nerves in radical hysterectomy deserves consideration in the quest to improve both cure and quality of life in cervical cancer patients.
- autonomic nerve system
- cervical cancer
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