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Prostate surgeons get help

Prostate surgeons are about to get a new machine to help them avoid slicing vital nerves during cancer surgery _ cuts that can leave their patients impotent.

UroMed Corp.'s new CaverMap, unveiled Thursday, is similar to a metal detector: The closer the surgeon's knife gets to a nerve, the faster the machine beeps in warning.

How big a help the CaverMap will be remains to be seen, cautioned doctors from the Food and Drug Administration and the American Urological Association.

UroMed reported that in one study, 92 percent of prostate cancer patients had sexual function a year after surgery, a jump from the 30 percent potency rate the same surgeon achieved before he tested the CaverMap.

But while the FDA approved CaverMap as an aid in detecting key nerves, medical officer Dan Schultz warned that only 14 men stayed in UroMed's study for the full year.

That is entirely too little data to predict whether good surgeons will notice much change if they buy the machine when it goes on sale next year, he said.