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We determine the incidence of urinary incontinence after radical prostatectomy and the factors that may influence this incidence.A total of 615 men who underwent radical retropubic prostatectomy performed by 1 of us (C. A. O. or M. C. B.) at our center between 1988 and 1996 were mailed a questionnaire regarding preoperative and postoperative voiding habits. Data collected included preoperative and postoperative continence status, interval to postoperative continence status, associated urinary symptoms, willingness to undergo radical prostatectomy again if given the chance and additional postoperative procedures. Patient age, date of surgery and duration of followup were also noted.Of the 615 patients 480 (78.2%), a mean of 62.6 years old, responded to the questionnaire. Mean followup was 3.3 years (range 1 to 8.8). Continence was defined as no regular use of pads. Of the respondents 91.8% were considered continent, 92% had achieved final continence status by 6 months postoperatively, 10.6% required 1 or more additional procedures related to urinary control and 90% would undergo surgery again if given the chance. Of the patients considered incontinent postoperatively 44% had associated urgency. Age, year of surgery and preoperative urinary leakage or post-void dribbling had no significant impact on postoperative continence status.Using an anonymous self-administered questionnaire we found an 8.2% incontinence rate after radical prostatectomy. This rate was similar to that in large, single institutional studies in which physician interview was used to elicit responses but significantly less than that in a national sample of Medicare patients also given a self-administered questionnaire. With minimal potential for adverse consequences in the hands of experienced surgeons, radical prostatectomy remains well tolerated with excellent patient satisfaction.