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Revista Latino-Americana de Enfermagem

On-line version ISSN 1518-8345

Rev. Latino-Am. Enfermagem vol.22 no.2 Ribeirão Preto Mar./Apr. 2014 

Original Articles

Telephone follow-up of patients after radical prostatectomy: a systematic review1

Luciana Regina Ferreira da Mata 2  

Ana Cristina da Silva 3  

Maria da Graça Pereira 4  

Emilia Campos de Carvalho 5  

2Doctoral student, Escola de Enfermagem de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Research Development, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil. Scholarship holder from Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq)

3Undergraduate student in Nursing, Universidade Federal de São João del Rei, Divinópolis, MG, Brazil

4PhD, Associate Professor, Escola de Psicologia, Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal

5PhD, Full Professor, Escola de Enfermagem de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Research Development, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil



to assess and summarize the best scientific evidence from randomized controlled clinical trials about telephone follow-up of patients after radical prostatectomy, based on information about how the phone calls are made and the clinical and psychological effects for the individuals who received this intervention.


the search was undertaken in the electronic databases Medline, Web of Science, Embase, Cinahl, Lilacs and Cochrane. Among the 368 references found, five were selected.


two studies tested interventions focused on psychological support and three tested interventions focused on the physical effects of treatment. The psychoeducative intervention to manage the uncertainty about the disease and the treatment revealed statistically significant evidences and reduced the level of uncertainty and anguish it causes.


the beneficial effects of telephone follow-up could be determined, as a useful tool for the monitoring of post-prostatectomy patients.

Key words: Prostatectomy; Health Education; Telephone; Patient Discharge



avaliar e sintetizar as melhores evidências científicas de ensaios clínicos controlados randomizados sobre acompanhamento telefônico de pacientes pós-prostatectomia radical, a partir de informações sobre como as chamadas telefônicas são realizadas e os efeitos clínicos e psicológicos para os indivíduos que receberam essa intervenção.


a busca foi realizada nas bases eletrônicas MEDLINE, Web of Science, Embase, CINAHL, LILACS e Cochrane. Das 368 referências encontradas, cinco foram selecionadas.


dois estudos testaram intervenções direcionadas ao apoio psicológico e três testaram intervenções direcionadas aos efeitos físicos do tratamento. A intervenção psicoeducativa para o gerenciamento da incerteza, referente à doença e ao tratamento, apresentou evidências estatisticamente significativas, reduziu o nível da incerteza e da angústia gerada por essa.


foi possível determinar os efeitos benéficos do acompanhamento telefônico, sendo uma ferramenta útil para o acompanhamento de pacientes pós-prostatectomia.

Palavras-Chave: Prostatectomia; Educação em Saúde; Telefone; Alta do Paciente



evaluar y sintetizar las mejores evidencias científicas de ensayos clínicos aleatorizados sobre acompañamiento telefónico de pacientes post prostatectomía radical, a partir de informaciones sobre las llamadas telefónicas son efectuadas y los efectos clínicos y psicológicos para los individuos que recibieron esa intervención.


la búsqueda fue efectuada en las bases electrónicas Medline, Web of Science, Embase, Cinahl, Lilacs y Cochrane. De las 368 referencias encontradas, cinco fueron seleccionadas.


dos estudios testaron intervenciones dirigidas al apoyo psicológico y tres testaron intervenciones dirigidas a los efectos físicos del tratamiento. La intervención psicoeducativa para la gestión de la incertidumbre referente a la enfermedad y al tratamiento mostró evidencias estadísticamente significativas, redujo el nivel de la incertidumbre y de la angustia generada por esta.


fue posible determinar los efectos benéficos del acompañamiento telefónico, siendo una herramienta útil para el acompañamiento de pacientes post prostatectomía.

Palabras-clave: Prostatectomía; Educación en Salud; Teléfono; Alta del Paciente


The education of postoperative patients is fundamental to provide appropriate knowledge to individuals with a view to self-care at home and, thus, to reduce the occurrence of complications after the discharge and to improve their recovery and quality of life( 1 ).

The educative interventions related to the patients' preparation for hospital discharge should be based on the following priorities: increase of individual knowledge about self-care and promotion of behavioral change to stimulate self-care( 1 ).

The diagnosis of prostate cancer can result in anguish and stress for the patient, mainly regarding the uncertainty about the treatment and recovery( 2 - 3 ). Radical prostatectomy is the most used procedure among the different treatments for this type of cancer, but can cause changes in patients' quality of life, as they may suffer from urinary incontinence and sexual impotence, among other symptoms, deriving from the surgical procedure( 3 - 4 ).

Education and counseling are regular and fundamental items for care delivery to men submitted to this type of surgery, in the pre as well as in the postoperative phase. These items should be focused on providing the best information on the patients' preparation for surgical wound care and indwelling urinary catheter maintenance at home, as well as on coping with physical side effects, such as urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction, and the consequent psychological suffering these effects cause for the men and their wives( 3 - 5 ).

The shorter hospital stay results in few opportunities to advise the patients and answer their concerns( 3 , 6 - 7 ). In addition, most of the complications happen at home( 1 ). Hence, post-discharge follow-up is essential for patients and their relatives to be prepared for self-care and lifestyle changes. Another benefit is the bonding between the health team and the patients, which can further the professionals' confidence and the feeling of safety in view of concerns and doubts( 2 , 8 ).

Written information, a list of teaching items offered at the hospital to guarantee the consistency of patient teaching, the partner's involvement in teaching sessions and telephone follow-up after discharge from hospital have been identified as important strategies for the development of educative programs( 9 ), also for discharge( 1 ).

Interventions related to postoperative education after radical prostatectomy, including telephone follow-up, can enhance the patients' physical recovery, emotional wellbeing and adherence to self-care after discharge from hospital, considering that patients will feel safer if they know what they are going to face and what to do to minimize the effects( 3 ). The telephone follow-up and education strategy adopted by health professionals offers valuable support for patients and permits reinforcing discharge orientations, symptom management, information exchange, early identification of signs of complications, besides the clarification of doubts and concerns. The main objective of this kind of intervention is to further adherence to post-discharge care and to facilitate the transition between the hospital and the return home. This reduces the stress and increases the patients' knowledge to cope with the symptoms, resulting in increased confidence in the patient-professional relationship and in the quality of services after discharge from hospital( 7 - 8 ).

The telephone follow-up method has been used mainly as a form of monitoring for those patients submitted to surgical procedures, who are not characterized as high-risk patients, allowing them to lead a life as normal as possible and distanced from the hospital environment. This care strategy is considered better for the service, by reducing the workload in the conventional outpatient monitoring system, allowing the professionals to focus on care for the patients who actually need hospital care( 6 , 10 ), which consequently also reduces the spending on possible readmissions( 10 - 11 ).

Telephone follow-up involves a range of aspects, such as the frequency, duration and time of discharge when the call starts, the professional making the call, the objective of the telephone contacts, the format and content addressed( 7 - 8 ).

In view of these considerations, it was considered pertinent to assess and summarize the best scientific evidence about the telephone follow-up of patients after radical prostatectomy and to obtain information about how the phone calls are made and the clinical and psychological effects for the individuals who received this intervention.


A systematic literature review was undertaken, which is aimed at joining all evidences available, in accordance with pre-specified eligibility criteria, in order to answer a specific research question. A systematic method is used, providing more reliable results based on which conclusions can be drawn and decisions made( 12 ).

Based on the Cochrane review method, the steps followed in this systematic review were: definition of the research question and inclusion criteria, search and selection of the studies, data collection, assessment of methodological quality of the studies included, data analysis, identification of bias, summarization and presentation of results in tables, interpretation of the results and presentation of the conclusions( 12 ).

Thus, the guiding question to achieve the proposed objective was: "What are the effects of telephone use on patient follow-up after prostatectomy?".

The inclusion criteria for the articles were: clinical trials (including controlled and non-controlled studies and randomized controlled clinical trials)( 13 ), published in English, Portuguese or Spanish, involving patients submitted to radical prostatectomy and that used phone calls as the intervention for post-discharge follow-up. The publication time of the search was not limited because of the specific study design, thus increasing its scientific evidence strength.

The search was undertaken in six electronic databases: Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System on-line (Medline), Web of Science, Excerpta Médica (EMBASE), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Literatura Latino-Americana e do Caribe em Ciências da Saúde (LILACS) and the Cochrane Library's Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials.

The controlled descriptors from the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) MeSH vocabulary were used: "prostatectomy", "telenursing", "telephone" and "hotlines". The Boolean operator AND was used for restrictive combinations between the descriptor "prostatectomy" and the others. Based on the references of the selected articles, a manual search was undertaken of articles that were not found in the databases.

Using the above descriptors, 368 papers were found. Nevertheless, 363 of these were excluded: different theme (179); repeated (143); telephone for data collection (30); different study design - four descriptive, two qualitative and one narrative review (7); editorial (1); research protocol (1); language - Japanese (1); telephone follow-up in men with prostate cancer without specifying the treatment (1). It is highlighted that, based on the article search strategy through the references of the selected articles, no clinical trial was found. Table 1 describes the reasons for excluding the articles and their respective databases.

Table 1 Selection of publications from databases according to the exclusion criteria. Brazil, 2013 

Exclusion criteria PubMed (N=76) CINAHL (N=13) Web of Knowledge (N=84) EMBASE (N=183) Cochrane (N=9) Lilacs
Not related to the theme 50 3 22 102 0 2 179
Telephone for data collection 16 3 4 7 0 0 30
Language 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Duplicity 0 5 54 74 9 1 143
Research Protocol 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Descriptive study 4 0 0 0 0 0 4
Qualitative study 2 0 0 0 0 0 2
Editorial 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Narrative review 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Cancer follow-up 0 0 1 0 0 0 1
Total papers excluded 75 12 81 183 9 3 368
Sample 1 1 3 0 0 0 5

To extract the data, an instrument was used based on the Cochrane Manual of Systematic Intervention Reviews, which identifies the following data: title, journal, database, publication year, place of data collection, objective, methodological details, interventions, outcome measures and statistical analysis, results, implications for practice, evidence level and Jadad score( 14 ).

The Jadad score assesses the methodological quality of the study( 14 ). One point is attributed to each positive answer in case the study is described as randomized, double-blind and the exclusions and sample losses are described. In addition, another point is attributed to each item if the randomization and blinding are appropriate. If considered inappropriate, however, one point is subtracted from each item. The total score can range between zero and five. Scores equal or superior to three reveal studies of appropriate methodological quality.


Among the five papers selected, one was found in PubMed( 15 ); one in CINAHL( 16 ); and three in the Web of Knowledge( 17 - 19 ). The journals where the studies were published are: Urologic Nursing( 16 ); Urology( 15 ); Cancer( 18 - 19 ); and International Journal of Urological Nursing( 17 ). Figure 1 describes all studies in detail, considering the objective, sample, data about the telephone intervention, results and implications.

Figure 1 Characteristics of clinical trials included in the systematic review regarding telephone follow-up after radical prostatectomy 

In the assessment of the studies through the Jadad scale, three( 15 , 17 - 18 ) obtained score three, as they were randomized, satisfactorily described the randomization process and reported on sample losses; two( 16 , 19 ) received score two, as they did not describe the randomization form. It is highlighted that none of the five studies was double blind.

Two papers( 18 - 19 ) tested psychological support interventions through telephone follow-up. One tested the management of uncertainty deriving from lack of knowledge and concerns, directly involving the patient and expanded to a relative( 18 ), and the other skills training for coping with the adverse effects of treatment( 19 ).

The other studies( 15 - 17 ) tested interventions focused on the physical effects of treatment, such as pelvic floor muscle training for urinary incontinence( 15 ) and the reinforcement of information received upon discharge for home care management( 16 - 17 ).

Content of phone calls

In two studies( 18 - 19 ), the calls contained information on prostate cancer, treatment symptoms, symptom management methods and skills teaching for better communication. One of them( 19 ) also taught relaxation techniques and formulated a plan to cope with the disease and treatment.

Other contents addressed were pelvic floor muscle training associated with information about urinary catheter management, urinary tract infection prevention, medication, erectile dysfunction, emotional recovery and counseling( 15 ).

Some authors described the use of a protocol for telephone follow-up, with questions about home care management and doubts or concerns( 16 - 17 ).

Responsible professionals and duration of the calls

The telephone calls focused on the physical effects were made by urologic nurses( 15 - 17 ). In two studies, one call was made three to five days after the discharge, which took between 10 and 15 minutes( 16 - 17 ); in another study, the calls started four weeks after the surgery, with a mean duration of 15 minutes and weekly frequency during the first three months and then monthly for one year, totaling 21 calls( 15 ).

The telephone interventions related to psychological factors were made by trained nurses( 18 ) and psychologists( 19 ) and happened weekly, totaling six to eight calls. The duration of the calls was mentioned in only one study( 19 ), in which psychologists performed the intervention during one hour. It is highlighted that none of the authors mentioned the initial period of the interventions.

Outcomes measured

The outcomes measured were urinary incontinence( 15 ); quality of life( 15 , 19 ); concerns/uncertainties( 16 , 18 ); control of adverse effects of treatment( 18 ); self-efficacy( 19 ); home care management( 16 ); use of medical resources during postoperative period( 16 ); satisfaction( 16 - 17 ); confidence regarding home care( 17 ) and rehabilitation related to urinary catheter maintenance, wound treatment, pain, intestinal function and activities of daily living( 17 ).

To assess the urinary incontinence, the 24 Hour Pad and the Incontinence Impact Questionnaire (IIQ-7) were used( 15 ). The results were not significant between the groups and it was detected that the first four months are the main incontinence period.

To assess the uncertainty/concerns, the Mishel Uncertainty in Illness Scale and the Self-Control Scale were used, with its subscales "cognitive reformulation" and "problem solving", associated with a semistructured interview( 18 ), besides self-reporting( 16 ). Uncertainty declined significantly (P=0.01), with differences between the cognitive reformulation (P=0.005) and problem solving groups (P=0.009), mainly during the first four months (P=0.05)( 18 ). The related concerns were the side effects of the treatment, such as incontinence and erection problems( 18 ); besides bladder spasms, scrotal swelling, pain, constipation, physical exercise level( 16 ) and communication with the professional( 18 ) (Figure 1).

The quality of life was assessed through the International Prostate Symptom Score - IPSS( 15 ), Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite - EPIC (with its domains about urinary function, intestinal function, hormonal function, among others) and the Physical Function and Mental Health Scales of the Short Form-36 Health Survey SF-36( 19 ). No significant differences were found between the groups in the studies under analysis although, after one year, urinary incontinence did no longer interfere in the quality of life (P=0.001)( 15 ) and the intestinal function demonstrated a significant effect, resulting from a decline in the discomfort resulting from treatment (P=0.042)( 19 ).

The Symptom Distress Scale was used to assess the control of adverse treatment effects( 15 ). According to specific items about prostate cancer, men from the intervention group demonstrated a better urinary flow control (P=0.03), mainly during the first four months of the study (P=0.01) (Figure 1).

The use of medical resources in the postoperative period( 16 ) was verified based on self-reporting. Sixty percent of the men from the control groups used unplanned resources, such as medical visits, against 47% in the intervention group, four of whom (28.5%) used the resources before receiving the intervention. As regards the rehabilitation( 17 ), the reductions were clinically relevant in the domains pain control (23%), urinary catheter management (18%) and wound treatment (13%).


The treatment of cancer and its side effects imply uncertainties and psychological suffering for the patients. Interventions aimed at reducing these effects are valid to improve the patients' quality of life. A study in the United States that involved patients submitted to stem cell transplantation verified the effectiveness of a cognitive-behavioral therapy by telephone, offered by psychologists, and found a reduction in the post-traumatic stress caused by the procedure and its consequent anguish and depression( 20 ). Significant improvements were also observed in a sample study, permitting reductions in the uncertainty and, consequently, in the anguish caused by radical prostatectomy (P= 0.01)( 18 ).

As regards the physical complications, urinary incontinence is the most frequent and affects the patient's self-esteem, favoring the occurrence of dermatitis and constant urinary infections( 5 ). To correct this alteration, different types of treatment exist, classified as conservative or invasive. The most common form of conservative treatment is pelvic floor muscle training, which involves repeated and progressive muscle contractions to strengthen the pelvic floor and consequently improve the bladder function. Evidence shows that patients participating in sessions of this treatment revert this picture faster when compared to patients who do not receive any kind of intervention( 21 ).

No consensus exists in the literature about the initial period of the training or how many exercises or sessions are needed. No reports exist either about the benefit of telephone follow-up in addition to this intervention. One of the studies in the sample used telephone follow-up in combination to a single pelvic floor muscle training session, which took place four weeks after the radical prostatectomy( 15 ) and found that this combination was as effective as training directly with the patient, besides entailing lower costs and enhancing the solution of patients' doubts.

One relevant point indicated in one of the studies( 15 ) was the most critical period for urinary incontinence, that is, the first four months after the surgery. This finding was reaffirmed in other papers in the sample, considering this period as the most relevant for a psychoeducative intervention( 18 ).

Urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction deriving from the surgery also have a negative influence on the marital relation and on the couple's quality of life, entailing psychic suffering, fatigue and changes in social and sexual life, demanding interventions that minimize these effects( 5 ).

With this goal, one study in the sample tested coping skills related to the disease in patients and their wives( 19 ), showing that, even without significant differences between the groups, depression and fatigue improved in the women who received the intervention, enhancing the couple's energy. American researchers support this findings after verifying that an intervention by nurses through visits and telephone calls, using a standardized protocol, achieved a modest improvement in the sexual function and in the couple's marital relationship, although without statistical significance( 3 ).

Another important question addressed in the sample studies is the relation between telephone follow-up and a reduction in the search for health resources( 16 ). Although no significant results were found, the patients in the intervention group used fewer resources in the postoperative period, reducing the number of readmissions and, consequently, causing resource savings for the health sector. At a hospital in the United States, after testing telephone follow-up with its patients, mainly those submitted to cardiac surgeries, a decrease was found in readmissions and an increase in the satisfaction of its clients( 11 ).

Reinforcing the orientations provided during hospital discharge is also possible by telephone, facilitating the transition process from discharge to home care. Chinese researchers verified the feasibility of telephone follow-up by nurse experts in care delivery to post-intestinal stoma patients( 22 ). Besides reinforcing the information granted in the discharge period, this was a proper moment for problem solving, such as the correction of inappropriate stoma management. One of the studies in the sample also reaffirms this feasibility and identified that post-prostatectomy patients, despite receiving oral and written information upon discharge, forget about the orientations and experience other concerns at home that wre not clarified during the hospitalization( 16 ).

Final considerations

After analyzing the five studies in the sample, telephone use can be summarized as a strategy for post-discharge follow-up with a view to assessing the patient's knowledge, discussing the concerns and offering help to cope with them, monitoring physical and psychological symptoms, as well as encouraging behavioral and lifestyle changes.

Only the study that tested a psychoeducative intervention to manage the uncertainty related to the disease and treatment offered statistically significant evidence about post-prostatectomy telephone follow-up, with a significant reduction in the level of uncertainty and anguish it produced.

Nevertheless, it could be identified that, in comparison with the advances in the control group, the use of telephone follow-up for patients after prostatectomy also reduced the demand for health services, helped to control adverse effects like urinary incontinence, reinforced information provided during discharge, solved doubts resulting from the home care experience, reduced physical alterations like anxiety and depression in patients and their wives and taught skills to manage the sexual dysfunction.

The range of interventions and the different outcomes measures in the sample studies made it impossible to statistically analyze the results found. This diversity also made it difficult to infer about the best time, quantity and frequency of the phone calls.

Nevertheless, this study was considered important to determine the beneficial effects of telephone follow-up in this surgical modality. Due to the reduced hospitalization period, the time available to provide information for discharge has been short and, hence, telephone follow-up turns into a useful tool for nurses and other professionals to act in this transition period, with a view to enhancing the health-related quality of life of patients and their relatives.


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1 Paper extracted from doctoral dissertation "Effectiveness of an education program for home care of patients undergoing radical prostatectomy: randomized clinical trial" presented to Escola de Enfermagem de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing Research Development, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brazil. Supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), process # 141377/2010-0

Received: May 29, 2013; Accepted: September 23, 2013

Corresponding Author: Emilia Campos de Carvalho Universidade de São Paulo. Escola de Enfermagem de Ribeirão Preto Departamento de Enfermagem Geral e Especializada Av. Bandeirantes, 3900 Bairro: Monte Alegre CEP: 14040-902, Ribeirão Preto, SP, Brasil E-mail:

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