The study involved 432 patients who underwent surgery for renal (kidney) cell carcinoma.
Senior author Dr. Ithaar Derweesh -- associate professor of surgery, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and urologic surgeon at University of California, San Diego Health System -- and colleagues said one group underwent complete removal of the kidney while the other had kidney-sparing surgery.
Sexual function was assessed pre- and post-operatively with a sexual health questionnaire known as the International Index of Erectile Function.
The study, published online in the British Journal of Urology International, found a dramatic yet delayed effect. Patients who had a total kidney removal were 3.5 times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction approximately six years after surgery, compared to those who had kidney reconstruction.
"This is the first study in medical literature to suggest that surgery for kidney removal can negatively impact erectile function while partial kidney removal can protect sexual function," Derweesh said in a statement.