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We compared the 12-month postoperative urinary incontinence rates of open radical retropubic and laparoscopic radical prostatectomy.This prospective study included all men with clinically localized prostate cancer scheduled for radical prostatectomy (open retropubic or laparoscopic) at the University of Alberta between October 1999 and July 2002. Preoperative evaluation included a 24-hour pad test, fluid volume voiding diary and International Prostate Symptom Score questionnaire. Postoperative evaluation included a 24-hour pad test at 3 and 12 months, as well as a voiding diary and International Prostate Symptom Score questionnaire at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.A total of 239 patients met the eligibility criteria and consented to participate (172 open radical retropubic prostatectomy, 67 laparoscopic radical prostatectomy). Of the patients 87% (148) treated with open radical retropubic prostatectomy and 88% (57) of those treated with laparoscopic radical prostatectomy completed 12-month followup (p = 0.50). According to 24-hour pad testing 13% of those treated with open radical retropubic prostatectomy and 17% of those treated with laparoscopic radical prostatectomy remained incontinent at 1 year (p = 0.26). There was no difference in 24-hour pad weight, urinary symptom score and urinary quality of life at 1 year between the open and laparoscopic groups overall, or when stratified according to 12-month continence status. The majority of subjects in both groups described mild symptoms and a general satisfaction with urinary quality of life.Based on objective and subjective measures, there were no differences in urinary functional outcomes 1 year after open radical retropubic prostatectomy or laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. Urinary incontinence was found to affect a similar proportion of patients who underwent open (13%) and laparoscopic (17%) radical prostatectomy 12 months postoperatively.