Radical Cystectomy

Updated: Jul 23, 2020
Author: Michael Christopher Large, MD; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS 


Practice Essentials

Radical cystectomy is a surgical procedure used to treat muscle-invasive bladder cancer without evidence of metastasis or with low-volume, resectable, locoregional metastases. Muscle-invasive bladder cancer is defined as tumors that invade the muscularis propria.

Signs and symptoms

Gross or microscopic hematuria is the initial presenting sign in 80-90% of patients with bladder cancer. Approximately 20% of patients have irritative symptoms such as urinary urgency, dysuria, or frequency.

See Presentation for more detail.


Laboratory studies

The following studies are typically included in the workup:

  • Urine cytology
  • Bladder barbotage
  • Liver function tests and bone fraction of alkaline phosphatase

Imaging studies

An appropriate evaluation of hematuria includes radiographic (computed tomography [CT] scanning, ultrasonography, retrograde pyelography, intravenous pyelography [IVP]) or direct imaging (cystoscopy, ureteroscopy) of the entire urinary tract.

A bone scan is indicated if the patient has symptomatic bone pain, elevated calcium levels, or elevated alkaline phosphatase levels.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used in some centers for evaluation of both local and metastatic disease; however, its staging accuracy is unknown.

See Workup for more detail.


The criterion standard for the treatment of patients with stage T2-T4 bladder cancer is radical cystoprostatectomy for men and anterior pelvic exenteration for women. In addition, all patients should undergo bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy.

Patients who undergo radical cystectomy may benefit from a cancer-specific survival advantage when neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given prior to surgery. The rationale of preoperative chemotherapy includes treatment of micrometastatic disease and pathologic downstaging.

Many methods of urinary diversion following radical cystectomy are possible. These methods can be classified into 3 categories: incontinent urinary diversions, continent cutaneous urinary diversions, and orthotopic ileal neobladders. See the image below.

Pelvic ileal neobladder ready for anastomosis to t Pelvic ileal neobladder ready for anastomosis to the urethra.

See Treatment for more detail.


In the United States, bladder cancer is the fifth most common cancer (following lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancers), fourth in prevalence among men and eighth among women. More than 90% of bladder cancers are transitional cell in origin, while, in countries with high endemic schistosomiasis rates (eg, Egypt), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the bladder is more common.

Bladder cancer can be axiomatically subdivided into non–muscle invasive and muscle-invasive disease. This article focuses primarily on the management of muscle-invasive transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) and the role of radical cystectomy. For a more in-depth review of the management of non–muscle invasive bladder cancer, see Bladder Cancer.

Lesions limited to the urothelium (pCIS), mucosa (pTa), or lamina propria (pT1) represent 70-80% of all newly diagnosed bladder cancer cases. Although prone to recurrences and, less commonly, progression to higher-stage disease, these lesions are typically managed with transurethral resection and selectively with intravesical chemotherapy, such as bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), mitomycin, or thiotepa. Patients with pT1 disease, particularly those with high-risk features (eg, multifocality, recurrence after intravesical therapy, extensive lamina propria invasion, concomitant carcinoma in situ [CIS]), are at considerable risk of disease progression and may benefit from early radical cystoprostatectomy.

Muscle-invasive bladder cancer, defined as tumors that invade the muscularis propria (pT2 or higher), requires more intensive therapy. To date, surgical resection via radical cystoprostatectomy (bladder and prostate) and pelvic lymph node dissection remain the criterion standard for determining accurate pathologic staging, optimizing curative potential, and minimizing the risk of tumor recurrence.

History of the Procedure

The first record of a radical cystectomy dates to the late 1800s. In 1949, Marshall and Whitmore described the basic surgical principles of radical cystoprostatectomy. In 1987, following the neuroanatomic mapping of the pelvic plexus by Schlegel and Walsh, nerve-sparing cystectomy became a surgical option that allowed for preservation of sexual function.[1]

For many years, radical cystectomy carried a significant perioperative mortality rate (5-10%). However, presumably because of improvements in surgical technique, the evolution of intensive care medicine, and the availability of new antibiotics, radical cystectomy is now a common procedure in major medical centers and carries a perioperative mortality rate of approximately 1-2%.[2] At high-volume centers with postoperative pathway care programs, an intensive care unit (ICU) stay is no longer routine and the median hospital stay is approximately 7 days.


As with most neoplasms, bladder carcinogenesis is a complex multistep process that is not fully understood. Activation of proto-oncogenes, loss or inactivation of tumor suppressor genes, and abnormal growth factor or receptor expression have been implicated.

Multiple mutations of chromosome 9 have been identified in superficial bladder cancer cells. Increased expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor and increased mutations of tumor suppressor genes (eg, TP53 and Rb) are common in patients with advanced bladder cancer. Mutations and nuclear accumulation of TP53 have been correlated with an increased grade, stage, and recurrence risk.

The risk of progression to muscle-invasive disease is associated with tumor grade, stage (Ta vs T1), size, number of lesions (solitary vs multiple lesions), previous tumor recurrence, and presence of CIS.


Environmental risk factors

Tobacco use accounts for up to 50% of all bladder cancer cases; people who smoke heavily quintuple their risk. Former smokers are at less of a risk for the disease than active smokers. The risk associated with second-hand smoke is unclear.

Exposure to aromatic amines found in some dyes, paints, solvents, leather dust, inks, combustion products, rubbers, and textiles is a risk factor.

Prior radiation therapy is a risk factor. Women who have undergone pelvic radiation (eg, for cervical cancer) have a 2- to 4-fold increased incidence rate. Survival rates are poorer in men who have undergone radiation for prostate cancer than in men of similar age and stage who have not undergone radiation.[3]

Treatment with cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) and ifosfamide (Ifex) may lead to the development of bladder cancer through their metabolite acrolein. Following high-dose cyclophosphamide treatment, the 12-year prevalence of bladder cancer is as high as 11%.

Low daily fluid intake may be a contributing factor; the relative risk in persons who drink 6 cups of water per day is 0.49 compared with that in persons who drink one cup of water per day.

Schistosomiasis caused by the parasite Schistosoma haematobium can cause SCC; this is common in Egypt and the Nile River Valley.

Long-term phenacetin use is a risk factor; this agent is no longer approved for use in the United States.

Long-term placement of indwelling catheters is a risk factor. Patients who have indwelling catheters for longer than 10 years should undergo bladder surveillance via cytology and cystoscopy.

Artificial sweeteners (saccharin, cyclamate), when administered in high doses to laboratory animals, are risk factors for bladder cancer; no similar evidence has been shown in humans.

The use of Aristolochia fangchi, a Chinese herb, has been implicated as a risk factor for both upper and lower tract TCC.

Coffee and tea are not risk factors for bladder cancer.


United States data

In the United States, up to 600,000 people have bladder cancer. In 2020, an estimated 81,400 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed, and 17,980 persons died of the disease.[4]

In 2008, the male-to-female incidence ratio was 2.9:1, and the male-to-female mortality ratio was 2.4:1.[5]

Bladder cancer is more common in whites than in African Americans. The average age at diagnosis is 65 years.

Bladder cancer diagnoses increased by 36% from 1984-1993. More than 90% of bladder cancers are TCC.

Screening of asymptomatic individuals is not currently recommended.

International data

In 1996, an estimated 310,000 new cases of bladder cancer were diagnosed worldwide. The incidence rate in Western Europe and North America is higher than in East Asian countries.

In developing countries, many bladder cancers are SCCs caused by the parasite S haematobium. In high-prevalence regions, SCC of the bladder has enormous health implications (eg, SCC is the most common solid tumor in Egyptian men).


Gross or microscopic hematuria is the initial presenting sign in 80-90% of patients. Approximately 20% of patients have irritative symptoms such as urinary urgency, dysuria, or frequency. This presentation is typical in patients with diffuse CIS, which can be confused with a urinary tract infection and can result in a delayed diagnosis.

With the more routine use of cross-sectional imaging, many bladder lesions are incidentally diagnosed. Patients with muscle-invasive disease can present with incidental or symptomatic obstructive hydroureteronephrosis or, less commonly, with metastatic deposits. These factors make bladder cancer a very uncommon incidental finding on autopsy.


Indications for radical cystectomy include the following:

  • Infiltrating muscle-invasive bladder cancer without evidence of metastasis or with low-volume, resectable locoregional metastases (stage T2-T3b)

  • Superficial bladder tumors characterized by any of the following:

    • Refractory to cystoscopic resection and intravesical chemotherapy or immunotherapy (up to 71% of such patients may progress to stage T2 within 5 years of initial recurrence[6] )

    • Extensive disease not amenable to cystoscopic resection

    • Invasive prostatic urethral involvement

  • Stage-pT1, grade-3 tumors unresponsive to intravesical BCG vaccine therapy

  • CIS refractory to intravesical immunotherapy or chemotherapy

  • Palliation for pain, bleeding, or urinary frequency

  • Primary adenocarcinoma, SCC, or sarcoma

Indications for urethrectomy include the following:

  • Tumor in the anterior urethra

  • Prostatic stromal invasion that is noncontiguous with the primary

  • Positive urethral margin during radical cystectomy

  • Diffuse CIS of bladder, prostatic ducts, or prostatic urethra (a relative indication)

Rarely, radical cystoprostatectomy is indicated for salvage treatment for recurrent prostate cancer or intractable hematuria following primary therapy with radiation.


Contraindications to radical cystectomy include the following:

  • Bleeding diathesis
  • Evidence of gross, unresectable metastatic disease (unless performed for palliation)
  • Medical comorbidities that preclude operative intervention (eg, advanced heart disease, poor pulmonary mechanics, advanced age)

Relevant Anatomy

The bladder is an extraperitoneal muscular urine reservoir that lies behind the pubis symphysis in the pelvis. At the dome of the bladder lies the median umbilical ligament, a fibrous cord that is anchored to the umbilicus and that represents the obliterated urachus. This ligament contains vessels that must be ligated when divided. The ureters, which transport urine from kidney to bladder, approach the bladder obliquely and posterosuperiorly, entering at the trigone. The intravesical ureteral orifices are roughly 2-3 cm apart and form the superolateral borders of the trigone. The trigone consists of the area between the interureteric ridge and the bladder neck. The bladder neck serves as an internal sphincter, which is sacrificed during a radical cystectomy.

In males, the seminal vesicles, vas deferens, ureters, and rectum border the inferoposterior aspect of the bladder. Anterior to the bladder is the space of Retzius, which is composed of fibroadipose tissue and the prevesical fascia. The dome and posterior surface of the bladder are covered by parietal peritoneum, which reflects superiorly to the seminal vesicles and is continuous with the anterior rectal peritoneum. In females, the posterior peritoneal reflection is continuous with the uterus and vagina.

The vascular supply to the bladder arrives primarily via the internal iliac (hypogastric) arteries, branching into the superior, middle, and inferior vesical arteries, which are often recognizable as lateral and posterior pedicles. The arterial supply also arrives via the obturator and inferior gluteal artery and, in females, via the uterine and vaginal arteries. Bladder venous drainage is a rich network that often parallels the named arterial vessels, most of which ultimately drain into the internal iliac vein.

Recent extensive anatomic pathology studies have determined that initial lymphatic drainage from the bladder is primarily into the external iliac, obturator, internal iliac (hypogastric), and common iliac nodes. Following the drainage to these sentinel pelvic regions, spread may continue to the presacral, paracaval, interaortocaval, and paraaortic lymph node chains. For a more detailed explanation of lymphatic drainage, see Treatment.

For more information about the relevant anatomy, see Bladder Anatomy.



Laboratory Studies


Urinalysis is used to identify or to confirm microscopic or gross hematuria. When hematuria is present along with bacteruria or pyuria, obtain a urine culture to rule out urinary tract infection. Urinalysis may yield false-negative results because hematuria associated with bladder cancer is often intermittent.

Urine cytology

Exfoliated urothelial cells are viewed using microscopy. In some urothelial cancers, cellular clumping, a high nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratio, nucleoli, and atypia are seen.

Avoid the first morning sample because of cellular degeneration.

Cytology is useful for identifying carcinoma in situ (CIS) and high-grade tumors but is less useful for low-grade tumors. The sensitivity of cytology for grades 1, 2, and 3 disease is 20%, 50%, and 90%, respectively.

Tests that are used to assess for protein (NMP22), nucleic acid, or chromosomal abnormalities (chromosomes 3, 7, 9, 17) are emerging as possible urine-based adjuncts for the diagnosis of bladder cancer.

Bladder barbotage

Bladder barbotage consists of repeated washings of bladder urothelium with normal saline. This test has better sensitivity than urine cytology because the total yield of cells is higher.

Other tests

Liver function tests and bone fraction of alkaline phosphatase are used to evaluate for metastatic spread to liver and bone.

Imaging Studies

An appropriate evaluation of hematuria includes radiographic (computed tomography [CT] scanning, ultrasonography, retrograde pyelography, intravenous pyelography [IVP]) or direct imaging (cystoscopy, ureteroscopy) of the entire urinary tract. A standard hematuria evaluation includes (1) CT scanning of the abdomen and pelvis, with and without intravenous contrast, often termed CT urography and (2) flexible cystoscopy. If a patient cannot receive intravenous contrast, the evaluation commonly consists of renal ultrasonography, cystoscopy, and retrograde ureteropyelography.

CT scanning and ultrasonography can reveal filling defects or masses in the urinary tract; however, they are frequently unable to demonstrate small urothelial tumors.

A bone scan is indicated if the patient has symptomatic bone pain, elevated calcium levels, or elevated alkaline phosphatase levels.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used in some centers for evaluation of both local and metastatic disease; however, its staging accuracy is unknown. Therefore, the use of MRI is currently under investigation.

Ferumoxtran-10–enhanced MRI and 11C-choline positron emission tomography/CT are under investigation as potential modalities for improving preoperative nodal staging.[7, 8]

Other Tests

Upon recognition of disease that may prove amenable to radical cystectomy, preoperative staging is essential for stratifying the chance of disease eradication and recurrence risk, as well as for identifying patients with metastatic foci who are not candidates for surgery. Preoperative staging involves the following:

  • The patient is examined under anesthesia to determine if the mass is fixed (pT4) or mobile. In women, this includes a bimanual pelvic examination; in men, this includes a bimanual examination with one hand per rectum and the other on the lower abdominal wall.

  • CT scanning of the abdomen and pelvis is performed. Both overstaging (20%) and understaging (50%) are common if only one study is performed.

  • Chest radiography is performed to assess for metastatic deposits.

Biopsy and Histologic Findings

Biopsy - Transurethral resection of bladder tumor

The biopsy consists of cystoscopic resection of tumors with biopsy forceps or a resectoscope. Superficial-appearing papillary tumors, as assessed by an experienced urologist, are virtually always noninvasive lesions. As a rule, any lesion that may extend into the lamina propria or deeper should include deep resection specimens that incorporate muscularis propria.

The biopsy can be performed in an operating room under general or spinal anesthesia.

The site, size, and number of tumors and whether papillary tumors are sessile, solid, nodular, or pedunculated is documented.

A biopsy of the prostatic urethra may be considered in patients at high risk for urethral disease (extensive CIS, multifocal high-grade disease, disease at or near the bladder neck, an abnormal-appearing prostate); 10-40% of patients with bladder cancer have prostatic urethral involvement.

Histologic findings

In the United States, 90% of bladder cancers are transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), 5% are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and 2% are adenocarcinoma. Grades 1, 2, and 3 refer to well, moderately, and poorly differentiated microscopic classifications, respectively. Forty percent of newly diagnosed bladder cancers are high grade, and up to half of these are stage T2 or higher.[9, 10]


Upon diagnosis of bladder cancer, accurately staging the cancer is essential for instituting appropriate therapy.

Table 1. Staging of Bladder Cancer (Open Table in a new window)

Disease Type



Superficial disease


Confined to mucosa


Involving lamina propria and muscularis mucosa


Malignant cells still confined to the flat urothelial layer

Muscle-invasive disease


Invasion of muscularis propria


Extension into perivesical fat


Invasion of pelvic sidewall or adjacent organs or metastatic disease

Lymph node stages include the following:

  • NX - Unknown lymph node status

  • N0 - No lymph node involvement

  • N1 - A single lymph node in the true pelvis

  • N2 - Two or more lymph nodes in the true pelvis

  • N3 - Lymph nodes along the common iliac artery or beyond



Medical Therapy

Alternative therapy for muscle-invasive disease

Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) alone

Risks include incomplete resection, a high rate of disease recurrence, and the potential for disease progression.

Systemic chemotherapy in combination with TURBT

This regimen has historically included methotrexate, vinblastine, doxorubicin (Adriamycin), and cisplatin (MVAC). A doublet of gemcitabine and cisplatin has shown similar response rates to MVAC in the metastatic setting and is easier to tolerate; therefore, this regimen is often considered the first-line therapy.[11, 12]

Primary radiation therapy

This therapy is more commonly used in countries outside the United States for patients with T2 and T3 cancer. The 5-year survival rate is 20-40% (lower than radical cystectomy).

Gofrit et al compared the results of radical cystectomy with those of chemoradiation in 2 age-matched populations. Between 1998 and 2008, 33 patients were treated with chemoradiation for biopsy-proven T2-4aN0M0 urothelial bladder cancer.[13] For every patient treated with chemoradiation, the investigators found an age-matched patient who underwent radical cystectomy during the same year for comparison. The mean dose of radiation therapy was 62 Gy; the median follow-up period for both groups was approximately 36 months. The groups were similar with respect to age, proportion of men, and length of follow-up.

The Charlson comorbidity index was significantly lower for patients who underwent surgery. The 2- and 5-year overall survival rates after surgery were 74.4% and 54.8%, respectively; after chemoradiation, 2- and 5-year overall survival rates were 70.2% and 56.6%, respectively. The 2- and 5-year disease-free survival rates after surgery were 67.8% and 63.2%, respectively; after chemoradiation,they were 63% and 54.3%, respectively. The investigators concluded that treatment with chemoradiation should be considered in patients with T2-4aN0M0 bladder cancer.[13]

Bladder-sparing multimodality therapy

Transurethral resection plus radiation therapy and concomitant cisplatin-based chemotherapy carries a 3- to 5-year estimated survival rate of 45-64%. Delayed cystectomy is often required for palliation of symptoms or for recurrent disease. At 5 years following treatment, approximately 40% of patients are disease-free with their native bladder.

No significant improvement over up-front cystectomy has been shown, and the burden of therapy is often greater in patients who undergo multimodal therapy. This therapy is considered only in patients who are highly motivated to preserve their bladder and reliably adhere to the rigorous surveillance protocol required.

Partial cystectomy

Partial cystectomy is for highly selected patients with a single tumor at a single point in time in a surgically amenable location who have no associated carcinoma in situ (CIS) and a bladder volume capable of tolerating a partial resection. Patients must be willing to accept the risk of local recurrence within the retained bladder and the risk of disease progression.

Surgical Therapy

The criterion standard for the treatment of patients with stage T2-T4 disease is radical cystoprostatectomy for men and anterior pelvic exenteration for women. Additionally, all patients should undergo bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy.

Patients who undergo radical cystectomy may benefit from a cancer-specific survival advantage when neoadjuvant chemotherapy is given prior to surgery. The rationale of preoperative chemotherapy includes treatment of micrometastatic disease and pathologic downstaging. However, some patients with node-negative disease are needlessly treated with chemotherapy; in addition, surgery is significantly delayed. A meta-analysis of 11 trials showed an overall survival rate benefit of 6.5% among patients who received neoadjuvant chemotherapy. If locally advanced TCC is suspected based on clinical staging, the rationale for neoadjuvant chemotherapy prior to cystectomy is even stronger.[14]

Retrospective data from multiple institutions suggest that an increased interval from the time of the diagnosis to radical cystectomy can adversely affect pathologic stage and survival. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, patients who underwent radical cystectomy within 12 weeks of the diagnosis had a lower incidence of advanced pathologic stage (42% vs 84% with extravesical disease), lower incidence of positive lymph nodes, and an increased 3-year survival rate (62% vs 35%).[15] Although all studies have been retrospective, sufficient data support the concept of prompt surgical intervention.

Survival data based on pathologic stage and nodal status are detailed in Outcome and Prognosis.


Cystoprostatectomy involves a bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy and removal of the bladder, peritoneal covering, perivesical fat, distal ureters, prostate, seminal vesicles, vas deferentia, and, sometimes, the membranous or entire urethra. At centers with advanced laparoscopic experience, cystoprostatectomies and urinary diversion can be performed laparoscopically.

Anterior pelvic exenteration

This consists of a bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy, cystectomy, urethrectomy, hysterectomy, salpingo-oophorectomy, and partial anterior vaginectomy.

Bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy

A lymph node dissection must be bilateral and should include either a standard or extended template. A standard pelvic lymph node dissection generally includes removal of the bilateral external iliac, obturator, internal iliac (hypogastric), and common iliac lymph node chains. An extended dissection includes all nodes from the standard template plus paracaval, interaortocaval, para-aortic, and presacral lymph nodes.

Two recent studies have detailed the pattern of lymphatic spread for bladder cancer. A group from Mansoura, Egypt, performed pelvic lymph node dissections (extending cranially to the inferior mesenteric artery) in 200 consecutive patients and harvested a mean of 50 lymph nodes per patient. Twenty-three of the patients had only one positive lymph node. Twenty-two of the positive lymph nodes were located in the obturator or hypogastric region. Based on these data, the obturator and hypogastric region may represent sentinel regions. Thus, the authors suggest that a pelvic lymph node dissection should include the obturator and hypogastric regions and that, if the frozen sections are negative for metastatic deposits, extending the lymphadenectomy to other regions may be of limited utility.

A separate analysis of 290 lymphadenectomies from a European multicenter trial identified 7% of patients with metastases in only the external iliac/internal iliac/obturator region, 7% of patients with metastases in only the common iliac region, and no patient with metastases more proximal to the common iliac region without also having more caudal regions of metastases.[16]

In concert with the previously detailed study, these findings suggest that the lymph node regions caudal to the aortic bifurcation may represent the initial areas of metastatic spread. Because some patients have a solitary positive lymph node in the common iliac region, this area should be included in the pelvic lymphadenectomy.

A retrospective study compared patients who underwent cystectomy plus limited pelvic lymph node dissection in the United States with a matched group who underwent cystectomy and extended lymph node dissection in Europe.[17] The group who underwent limited pelvic lymphadenectomy were found to have suboptimal staging, a higher rate of local progression, and a lower recurrence-free survival at 5 years (7% vs 35% for N+; 67% vs 77% for T2N0). While stage migration may be a confounding factor in this analysis, the study reflects a growing trend in oncologic surgery toward more extensive lymphadenectomies.

Always attempt a thorough lymph node dissection; however, dissection cannot be safely performed in some rare circumstances, such as the following:

  • Extensive radiation changes

  • Prior pelvic surgery

  • Large arterial aneurysms

  • Severe patient comorbidities that limit the length of surgery

  • Large volume, fixed lymphadenopathy

Urinary diversion and reconstruction

Many methods of urinary diversion following radical cystectomy are possible. These methods can be classified into 3 categories: incontinent urinary diversions, continent cutaneous urinary diversions, and orthotopic ileal neobladders. See the image below.

Pelvic ileal neobladder ready for anastomosis to t Pelvic ileal neobladder ready for anastomosis to the urethra.

For a more detailed description of these 3 categories, see Intraoperative details or the Medscape Reference article Urinary Diversions and Neobladders.

Briefly, an ileal conduit is technically the easiest and quickest method of urinary diversion to perform. Continent cutaneous urinary diversions require intermittent catheterization of a small periumbilical stoma and obviate the need for a stoma bag. The major advantages of neobladders include improved body image and the lack of a stomal device; however, they are contraindicated in some patients, including women with tumor involvement of the bladder neck and most men with prostatic stromal or urethral involvement. Relative contraindications to neobladder include a radiated pelvis, advanced age (lower continence rates), azotemia, and liver dysfunction. Complications of all types of urinary diversion include the following:

  • Hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Stomal-peristomal inflammation, hernia, or stenosis

  • Urinary calculi

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Ureterointestinal stenosis leading to hydronephrosis

Zabell et al conducted a study in a large, population-based cohort to compare the risk of end-stage renal disease in patients who received either ileal conduit urinary diversion or continent urinary diversion after cystectomy for bladder cancer. The investigators concluded that there was no significant difference in the rate of end-stage kidney disease for ileal conduit urinary diversion and continent urinary diversion.[18]

Preoperative Details


Prehospital planning usually includes the following:

  • Consideration of neoadjuvant chemotherapy for stage pT2 disease or higher: Adequate renal function (estimated glomerular filtration rate >60 mL/min) is required to administer cisplatin-based regimens (MVAC or gemcitabine/cisplatin). Cisplatin-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy is the preferred standard when possible, as it has been shown to improve survival rates. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is preferred over adjuvant chemotherapy because of improved patient tolerance.

  • Evaluation and optimization of cardiopulmonary disease

  • Stoma marking and counseling, if necessary

  • Autologous blood donation, if desired

  • Bowel preparation, with surgeon's choice of clear-liquid diet, magnesium citrate, Phospho-soda, GoLYTELY, or enemas

  • Confirmation of urine sterility

  • Smoking cessation


In-hospital preparation usually includes the following:

  • Adequate intravenous hydration

  • Nasogastric tube placed intraoperatively (many centers remove gastric suction at the end of surgery)

  • Antibiotics with bowel flora coverage

  • Subcutaneous heparin or pneumatic compression stockings

Operating room

The following may be included in preparation for surgery:

  • Paralytic anesthetic agent

  • Long, curved, and angled instruments; self-retaining retractor

  • Supine position in men (for concomitant urethrectomy, lithotomy is needed)

  • Modified lithotomy position with Allen or Lloyd-Davies stirrups in women

  • Sterile preparation and drape from mid chest to mid thigh, including the genitalia and perineum

  • Bladder catheter

Intraoperative Details


Make a vertical midline incision from symphysis pubis to a few centimeters above or below the umbilicus, depending upon a patient's habitus. Enter the peritoneum above the umbilicus and incorporate the urachal remnant into the specimen. Palpate the pelvic and abdominal viscera and collect frozen section biopsy samples of any suspicious sites. Expose the ventral bladder and prostate. Identify, ligate, and divide the vas deferentia or round ligaments. Continue the peritoneal incision laterally to expose the aortic bifurcation, common iliac arteries, and external iliac arteries.


Dissect the adventitia from the external and common iliac vessels and isolate all of the perivascular lymphatic tissue. Enter the obturator space, being cognizant of accessory obturator vessels and the obturator nerve. Most surgeons clip all lymphatics to limit the incidence and size of lymphoceles. Standard lymphadenectomy template borders are typically as follows:

  • Lateral - Genitofemoral nerve on the psoas muscle

  • Superior - Aortic bifurcation

  • Inferior - Inguinal ligament, including the node of Cloquet

  • Medial - Perivesical tissue

As detailed in Surgical Therapy, if the standard template is without gross or microscopic disease, stopping the lymph node dissection is reasonable. Some surgeons have adopted an extended lymph node dissection, including the distal paracaval, distal paraaortic, and presacral regions, in all patients. Studies have shown that the survival rate is related to the total number of lymph nodes removed, regardless of the number of positive lymph nodes (for further detail, see Outcome and Prognosis).[19]

The survival rate is likely related to more accurate pathologic staging and the removal of lymph nodes with micrometastatic disease that the pathologist does not identify; therefore, a more extensive lymph node dissection is often advocated. Another rationale for an extended lymph node dissection is that more limited templates (caudal to the bifurcation of the iliac vessels) are associated with pelvic recurrence rates as high as 30%.

If grossly positive lymph node disease is encountered, consider whether the lymph nodes can be safely and completely resected. If this can be fully achieved, proceed with the lymphadenectomy. Up to 25% of patients with lymph node–positive disease survive long-term, as detailed in Outcome and Prognosis.


The distal ureters are mobilized, taking care to preserve the periureteral tissue that contains the vasculature; they are ligated at the ureterovesical junction; margins may be sent for frozen section. Some groups forgo frozen section analysis, as it has not been shown to alter disease recurrence or systemic progression rates.[20] Bluntly enter Denonvilliers space anterior to the rectum and posterior to the bladder, prostate, and seminal vesicles. For lateral pedicles, the first branch of the anterior division of the internal iliac artery (superior vesical artery) is ligated and divided bilaterally; repeat with the inferior vesical artery.

For the posterior pedicles, in multiple steps, divide the tissue that lies laterally to the bladder, seminal vesicles, and prostate. This can be accomplished with clamps and ties or with the gastrointestinal anastomosis (GIA) stapler. At this point, the bladder and proximal prostate should be mobile. Bluntly open the endopelvic fascia on the lateral edge of the prostate. Turn attention to the apex of the prostate. Partially release the puboprostatic ligaments. Ligate the dorsal venous complex (DVC) proximally and distally. Transect the DVC and control any remaining bleeding with suture ligatures. Transect the urethra, divide the rectourethralis muscle, and remove the bladder, seminal vesicles, and prostate en bloc. If an orthotopic f is planned, frozen sections of the prostatic urethra and prostatic apex are mandatory to exclude disease. Confirm hemostasis. Closed suction drainage of the pelvis is suggested.


Place the patient in the dorsal lithotomy position. A midline perineal incision is made. The urethra and accompanying corpus spongiosum are isolated from the corpora cavernosum to the fossa navicularis. A ventral urethral meatotomy is made, and the urethra is dissected from the proximal and distal aspects and removed en bloc with the bladder and the prostate.

Incontinent cutaneous urinary diversion

Bricker popularized the ileal conduit in the 1950s. The conduit drains to a cutaneous stoma and requires the use of an external appliance. Ureteral anastomoses are freely refluxing. Approximately 12-15 cm of ileum is mobilized, and the proximal end is closed with a staple line or sutures. The left ureter is tunneled through the sigmoid mesocolon and both ureters are spatulated and sutured to the ileal segment with interrupted absorbable sutures (eg, 4-0 Vicryl). Temporary stenting of the ureterointestinal anastomoses is traditionally performed, although some groups no longer routinely practice this. The Wallace technique is a variation, with a distal ureteroureteral anastomosis prior to the ileal anastomosis. This provides a wider lumen anastomosis; however, in the rare occurrence of an anastomotic tumor recurrence, it places both kidneys at risk of obstruction.

A circular 2.5-cm diameter incision is made on the skin in a premarked position and carried down through Scarpa fascia. A cruciate incision large enough for 2 fingers is made in the anterior and posterior rectus sheath. The stoma is "rosebudded" with eversion of the end segment of ileum.

Absorbable sutures are placed from the stomal skin edge to the serosa of the conduit, approximately 3 cm proximal to its distal end, and are continued as a full-thickness bite through the distal end of the conduit. Then, tailor the posterior rectus fascial sheath to an appropriate fit to prevent intestinal herniation.

A colonic conduit can be used if the ileum has been irradiated. Every segment of colon has been used, with the most popular being the transverse colon because it is outside the field of any previous pelvic radiation.

Continent cutaneous urinary diversions

In 1987, Rowland and associates introduced the Indiana pouch, which is the most commonly used continent cutaneous diversion technique. Approximately 30-40 cm of cecum and ascending colon are isolated with approximately 10 cm of terminal ileum. The colon is detubularized. The terminal ileum is plicated to the size of a 14F catheter with a GIA stapler. The ileocecal valve is buttressed and imbricated as a continence mechanism. The cecum is folded down, shaped into a spherical reservoir, and closed with 2-0 running absorbable suture. The ureterointestinal anastomoses are placed on the posterior colonic wall and stented perioperatively. A cecostomy tube is placed to drain the pouch and to provide for postoperative irrigation, as needed. The estimated rate of daytime continence is 93% and nocturnal continence, 76%.

The bowel segment of the Indiana pouch includes th The bowel segment of the Indiana pouch includes the entire ascending colon, a small portion of the transverse colon, and about 7-8 cm of the terminal ileum.

Orthotopic neobladders

Orthotopic neobladders are constructed in the anatomic position and anastomosed to the native urethra. Volitional voiding is achieved by increasing the abdominal pressure and relaxing the external sphincter. The neobladders can be fashioned from ileum, ileocolonic tissue, or sigmoid colon. During dissection, special attention must be given to protect the urethra, periurethral musculature, and sphincter. Complications include daytime incontinence (approximately 10% of patients), nocturnal incontinence (20-30%), hypercontinence requiring catheterization (approximately 20% in women), urinary retention (10%, due to obstruction caused by stricture, residual prostate tissue, disease recurrence, or mechanical kinking of the urethra or neobladder dysfunction), and, rarely, ureterointestinal anastomotic stenosis or fistula formation.

Numerous variations of the orthotopic neobladder have been introduced, but the Studer-type pouch, because of its versatility, is currently used most often. The pouch is particularly useful with short ureters because the proximal limb can be configured to reach cephalad, if necessary. A 50- to 60-cm ileal segment is isolated approximately 15-20 cm proximally to the ileocecal valve. The distal 40-45 cm are detubularized, folded, and fashioned into a pouch with 2-0 absorbable sutures. The ureteroileal anastomoses are placed in the unopened, isoperistaltic afferent segment. A small opening is placed in a dependent portion of the pouch and anastomosed to the urethral stump with interrupted absorbable sutures.

Other neobladders include the Camey, a 60-cm segment of ileum fashioned into a U shape; the Hautmann, which is similar to other neobladders, but W-shaped to increase capacity; and the Mainz, LeBag, and UCLA pouches, which all use ileocecal segments.

Table 2. Advantages and Disadvantages of Intestinal Segments Used for Urinary Diversion (Open Table in a new window)





Can be used in patients with renal failure, hepatic failure, acidosis, and pelvic radiation; no mucus production

Hypokalemic hypochloremic metabolic alkalosis, hematuria dysuria syndrome due to acid irritation of the urothelium, concern for increased secondary malignancy



Hyperkalemic hypochloremic metabolic acidosis, hyponatremia, osteomalacia (avoid if at all possible)


Familiarity to urologists

Hypokalemic hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis, vitamin B12 deficiency, fat malabsorption, diarrhea, osteomalacia (not a good option following pelvic radiation)


Transverse colon can be used in patients who have had pelvic radiation.

Hypokalemic hyperchloremic metabolic acidosis, osteomalacia; most mucus production of all intestinal segments

Other considerations

Nerve-sparing radical cystectomy is a technique that can be used to preserve erectile function. Postoperative potency is 40-50% in optimally selected patients, namely men without tumors at the bladder base or prostate.

Most of the dissection is performed in a retrograde manner. The apex of the prostate is addressed first, using a technique virtually identical to that used for a nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. The nerves are most commonly damaged at the apex and at the tips of the seminal vesicle—an important point to remember during dissection. The best candidates for this procedure are patients who have superficial transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) or invasive disease that does not involve the base of the bladder posteriorly because they have a lower risk of disease extension posterolaterally. An appropriate cancer surgery takes utmost precedence; abandon nerve sparing if the patient's cancer status posterolaterally is of any concern.

Survival rates are comparable with those of the traditional approach in appropriately selected patients. Nerve-sparing cystectomy has also been associated with improved neobladder continence rates, although the exact mechanism is unclear.

Alternative surgical approaches

Alternative surgical approaches include the following:

  • Perineal access may be used for mobilization of the posterior plane between the rectum and the prostate following radiation therapy to the pelvis (salvage cystectomy).

  • Laparoscopic (or robot-assisted laparoscopic) cystectomy is an emerging treatment option with early perioperative outcomes that suggest less blood loss, potentially earlier return of bowel function, and apparently similar pathologic outcomes. While intracorporeal neobladder or conduit construction has been successfully performed, most specialized centers create the urinary diversion extracorporeally through a miniature laparotomy. Current minimally invasive series are small and immature; further evaluation is necessary.[21, 22]

  • Radical cystectomy in women is often technically easier because women have a larger pelvic cavity. Warn patients of a smaller vaginal cavity and the possibility of dyspareunia. Unique technical considerations in females include the following:

    • When the superior vesical artery is ligated, the uterine arteries should also be addressed.

    • The broad ligament is incised on the posterior side down to the posterior fornix of the vagina.

    • The round ligament is ligated and divided.

    • Sacrifice the gonadal vessels above the ovaries.

    • The fallopian tubes and ovaries are removed, along with the uterus and bladder.

    • The vagina is mobilized and incised at the posterior fornix along the lateral vaginal wall to the bladder neck at the 2-o'clock and 10-o'clock positions.

    • Anterior vaginectomy is a U-shaped anterior vaginal wall incision on both sides of the bladder neck. Labia can be retracted laterally with suture ligatures. The dorsal venous plexus anterior to the urethra is controlled with suture ligature. The anterior vaginal wall is then divided and removed en bloc with the entire specimen.

    • The vagina is reconstructed by suturing the lateral walls together or by flipping the posterior wall forward in a clam-shell fashion. A vaginal pack soaked with Betadine can be left in the vagina postoperatively for 1-2 days.

    • Vagina-sparing cystectomy is well accepted in select patients based on tumor location.[23]

  • Radical cystectomy without urinary diversion is an option in anuric patients on hemodialysis.

Postoperative Details

The following may be used during the postoperative period:

  • Optional use of nasogastric suction and stress gastritis prophylaxis

  • Bowel-spectrum antibiotics for 1-2 days

  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis - Includes serial compression devices, subcutaneous unfractionated heparin, or low molecular weight heparin

  • Incentive spirometry and chest physiotherapy

  • Removal of Jackson-Pratt drains when less than 150 mL per day accumulates


Because recurrence is a significant risk following radical cystectomy, frequent and appropriate surveillance is essential.

A group from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center retrospectively reviewed their post–radical cystectomy surveillance protocol for 382 patients and concluded that a stage-specific approach was most appropriate.[24] With a median follow-up of 38 months, 97 of 382 (25%) patients experienced recurrences, with a median time to recurrence of 12 months. The 4 most common sites of recurrence (in decreasing order of incidence) included the lung, pelvis, bone, and liver. Seventy-four percent of recurrences were asymptomatic, and 43 of the 72 asymptomatic recurrences were detected with chest radiography or liver function serum tests.

Only 5% of patients with pT1 disease had subsequent metastases, and all were identified with chest radiography or liver function tests. Among 10 patients who were found to have asymptomatic intra-abdominal recurrences based on CT scan findings, 9 had pT3 disease. Patients with pT2 and pT3 disease had recurrence rates of 20% and 40%, respectively. All recurrences in patients with pT2 or pT3 disease occurred within 24 months.

Based on these findings, the group recommends that patients with pT1 disease should undergo an annual history, physical examination, chest radiography, liver function tests, and alkaline phosphatase assessment. Patients with pT2 disease should undergo the same studies, but they should be performed every 6 months for 3 years, then annually. Patients with pT3 disease should be observed similarly to those with pT2 disease, except surveillance should start at 3 months, with CT scanning performed at 6, 12, and 24 months. All patients with TCC, particularly those at higher risk of recurrence (distal ureteral involvement at cystectomy, multiple recurrent bladder tumors, CIS), should undergo upper tract radiographic studies every 1-2 years.

There is conflicting data regarding whether routine post-cystectomy surveillance improves survival. A retrospective study from the Mayo Clinic of 1600 patients with median follow-up of 9.8 years suggested that 5- and 10-year overall survival is improved in patients with asymptomatic versus symptomatic recurrence; 46% and 26% versus 22% and 10%, respectively (P< .0001). Patients with symptomatic recurrence had a 60% increased risk for death versus those with asymptomatic recurrence (P = .0001).[25]

A large study in Germany, however, casts doubt on this purported value of imaging after cystectomy.[26] Of 1270 patients who underwent radical cystectomy, tumors recurred in 154 asymptomatic patients and 290 symptomatic patients. The overall survival rates at 1, 2, and 5 years in the two groups were 22.5%, 10.1% and 5.5% versus 18.9%, 8.2% and 2.9%, respectively. Based on this experience, symptom-guided follow-up may provide survival outcomes that are similar to those associated with imaging-based examinations. Additional studies are needed to validate these findings.

For excellent patient education resources, see Bladder Cancer and Blood in the Urine.


In early 2009, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reported a complication rate of 67% for 1,142 consecutive cystectomies.[27] Strict guidelines were used, and their results suggest that prior publications may have underestimated the true complication rate. Specifically, in 2006, the University of Southern California reported 28% complication and 2% mortality rates (primarily due to cardiovascular events, sepsis, and pulmonary embolism) in a series of 1,359 patients who underwent radical cystectomy.[2]

Common complications include ileus, atelectasis, DVT, and wound infection. Less common complications include rectal injury, ureteroileal anastomotic leaks, and bowel obstruction.

Lymphadenectomy typically carries a low morbidity rate. In a large series that detailed complication rates directly attributable to the lymph node dissection, about 5% of patients had prolonged lymphatic drainage via an externalized tube; however, all tubes were postoperatively removed within 10 days. Although an extended lymph node dissection typically takes approximately 60 minutes longer than a standard dissection, perioperative morbidity and mortality rates were not higher in a small series of 92 patients from Austria.

Rectal injury results from undue excessive traction of the specimen, which can cause tenting and avulsion of rectal tissue or direct incision into the rectum. If the rectum is injured, a meticulous multilayered repair using the Lembert technique is necessary. Suture a flap of peritoneum or omentum over the repaired injury and copiously irrigate. Perirectal drainage, length of nothing-by-mouth status, and duration of antibiotic therapy are case- and surgeon-dependent.

Outcome and Prognosis

Cure rates among patients with stage pT2-pT3b TCC following radical cystectomy are equal or superior to those of any bladder-salvage technique. Despite radical cystectomy, 50% of patients die from their disease (18-35% of patients with stage pT2). The local recurrence rate among patients with pT3 and pT4 disease is 5%-10% and 15%-25%, respectively.

Mitra et al conducted a study to identify prognostic factors for survival in patients who experienced urothelial recurrence after undergoing radical cystectomy for bladder cancer.[28] Their study cohort consisted of 2029 patients with bladder cancer who underwent radical cystectomy at the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, in Los Angeles, California. Of the patients in their cohort, 80 (3.9%) experienced recurrence in the urothelium (upper urinary tract or urethra) and had sufficient follow-up for further analysis. Clinicopathologic characteristics were analyzed by univariate and multivariable analyses to identify prognostic factors for postrecurrence disease-specific and overall survival.

At a median follow-up of 12 years, 25 patients (31.3%) in the study by Mitra et al experienced recurrence in the upper tract, and 55 (68.7%) experienced recurrence in the urethra. Median time to recurrence was 25.9 months. Older age, the presence of tumors that were upstaged at the time of cystectomy, and positive surgical margins were associated with a lower overall survival. The presence of symptoms at follow-up was associated with a poor disease-free survival. Disease-specific survival and overall survival were lower for patients who experienced urothelial recurrence within 2 years of cystectomy. The site of urothelial recurrence did not have a bearing on time to recurrence. The investigators concluded that the clinical course for urothelial cancer relapse in the upper urinary tract is comparable with that in the urethra and that patients experiencing early urothelial recurrence have a worse prognosis and should be considered candidates for adjuvant therapy.[28]

A study by Gondo et al indicated that in patients who undergo radical cystectomy with intestinal urinary diversion, postoperative estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) can be predicted by preoperative eGFR, age, and thickness of abdominal subcutaneous fat tissue.[29]

Radical cystectomy plus pelvic lymph node dissection and negative nodes

The following is the pathologic stage with the corresponding 5-year survival rate for radical cystectomy plus pelvic lymph node dissection and negative nodes:

  • pTa-pT1 - 85-100%

  • P2 - 63-83%

  • P3 - 17-58%

  • P4 - 0-59%

  • Node positive - 10-30%

Radical cystectomy plus pelvic lymph node dissection with nodal disease

In most large series, the incidence of lymph node metastases at the time of cystectomy ranged from 20-30%; patients with positive nodes have a 5-year survival rate of 20-35%. Of patients with nodal disease, survival depends on numerous factors, such as the following:

  • Extent of the primary bladder disease

  • Extent of nodal metastases (N1, N2, N3)

  • Total number of lymph nodes (diseased plus disease-free) removed[19]

  • Lymph node density (total number of positive lymph nodes divided by total lymph nodes removed)

A cure rate of up to 45% can be achieved in patients with nodal disease and a tumor confined to bladder (pT2 or less), whereas lower cure rates (15-30%) are achieved in patients with nodal disease and an extravesical primary tumor.

N1 disease carries a 5-year survival rate of 26-44%, N2 disease carries a 5-year survival rate of 22-26%, and those with N3 disease rarely survive longer than 5 years.

The survival rate has also been correlated to the total number of lymph nodes removed, regardless of the number of diseased nodes; this is likely a result of more accurate pathologic staging and the removal of micrometastases not visualized pathologically. In one large study, patients with both node-negative and node-positive disease had an increased survival rate if the total number of lymph nodes removed was greater than 9.[19] Another recent study that analyzed lymph node dissection data from 1,121 patients undergoing cystectomy showed that, regardless of lymph node status, as more lymph nodes were resected, overall survival improved. Survival probability never plateaued at a specific lymph node threshold but continued to improve as more nodes were removed. This finding implies that more extensive lymph node dissections may result in improved long-term survival.[30]

Another prognostic tool is the lymph node ratio, or density, defined as the total number of positive lymph nodes divided by total lymph nodes removed. A cutpoint of 20% has been used to risk-stratify patients with positive lymph nodes. In a large Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and University of Southern California series, patients with a lymph node ratio of less than 20% had 5-year survival rates of 45-64%, whereas those with a lymph node ratio of more than 20% had 5-year survival rates of 6-18%.

When disease is limited to the prostatic urethra or prostatic ducts, the prognosis is similar to that in patients without prostatic involvement. Patients with urethral CIS, ductal prostatic involvement, and stromal prostatic involvement have 5-year survival rates of 74%, 67%, and 36%, respectively.

Other prognostic factors that have been independently associated with outcome following cystectomy include extracapsular extension of pelvic lymph node metastases,[31] Ki67 expression,[32] and lymphovascular invasion.[33] Recurrence after cystectomy almost uniformly results in cancer-specific mortality.

Alternative therapy

In clinical stage T2 and T3 disease, external beam radiotherapy is associated with a 5-year survival rate of 20-40%.

Bladder-sparing multimodal therapy (TURBT, radiation, chemotherapy) carries a 3- to 5-year survival rate of 45-64%. Thus, the survival rate is comparable, although not superior, to radical cystectomy, and the burden of therapy is much higher for patients. In general, this approach is reserved for patients who are highly motivated toward bladder preservation.

Future and Controversies

Lymph node involvement

The treatment of patients with lymph node–positive disease is controversial. Preoperative identification of metastatic lymph nodes typically results in confirmation of disease based on biopsy results followed by chemotherapy. If a meaningful response is seen, subsequent radical cystectomy is an option. When lymph node involvement is identified at the time of surgery, most urologic surgeons proceed with an extended lymphadenectomy and radical cystectomy if all visible disease can be resected. A retrospective review of 1,121 patients undergoing cystectomy noted that survival increased as the number of lymph nodes removed increased.[30]

However, others advocate halting the surgery, administering chemotherapy, and, if the tumor is chemosensitive, having the patient return for a radical cystectomy and lymph node dissection. No well-designed randomized studies have addressed the role of chemotherapy specifically for patients with node-positive disease following cystectomy. While the role of adjuvant chemotherapy for these patients remains controversial, most experts agree that patients with lymph node involvement should be strongly considered for this therapy.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy

Data support a survival benefit (6.5%) for neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients undergoing radical cystectomy for muscle-invasive bladder cancer. The rationale is to systemically treat patients with micrometastatic disease prior to surgical removal of the bladder and lymph nodes. Up to 38% of patients who underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy were found to have no evidence of disease at the time of cystectomy (pT0) compared with only 15% who proceeded directly to surgery.[34] However, using this treatment paradigm leads to a subset of patients who needlessly receive chemotherapy (those without systemic disease or nodal involvement). Adjuvant chemotherapy may prevent this pitfall; however, up to 30% of patients who undergo cystectomy are unable to receive indicated chemotherapy because of postoperative complications.[35]

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy followed by radical cystectomy versus radical cystectomy and risk-based adjuvant chemotherapy has never been studied in a randomized fashion. However,because of improved patient tolerance, cisplatin-based neoadjuvant chemotherapy is the currently recommended standard.

Bladder-sparing approach

Bladder-sparing protocols have been advocated as a treatment option because they may salvage the native bladder and may offer better quality of life than radical cystectomy does. These protocols entail a complex treatment schedule, including transurethral local bladder resection, systemic chemotherapy, and radiotherapy with a radiation sensitizer. Local recurrences and disease-free survival are comparable with those of traditional radical cystectomy, and the patient avoids (or delays [40% of cases]) a significant surgery and potentially maintains native bladder function. Which patients benefit from a bladder-sparing approach remains unclear.

The concern that intravesical therapy may preclude the possibility of definitive therapy appears to be minor. In a group of 313 patients with high-grade Ta, T1, or CIS initially treated with bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine and ultimately with cystectomy, disease-specific survival rates were similar in those who underwent cystectomy within one year of initial BCG treatment to those who had received more than one year of BCG treatment prior to cystectomy.[36]

The most optimistic trials of bladder-sparing protocols to date report an approximate 40% 5-year survival rate with an intact bladder. Of patients whose conditions respond completely, 50%-60% experience tumor recurrence in the bladder; half of these recurrences are invasive and carry an increased risk of metastatic spread.[37]

Although no economic comparisons, randomized trials, or unflawed quality-of-life trials are available to debate the merits of a bladder-sparing versus radical surgical approach, a bladder-sparing approach is a reasonable option for select patients. Patients who may not tolerate surgery or have a strong sentiment toward maintaining their native bladder are excellent candidates for a bladder-sparing multimodal approach.

Prostate-sparing approach

The external urinary sphincter and cavernosal nerves lie in close proximity to the prostate. To enhance urinary continence and potency, certain groups have advocated a prostate-sparing cystectomy in highly select men. By performing this procedure, the surgeon avoids the region of the sphincter and nerves. The primary concern with this surgical approach is leaving residual prostatic TCC or adenocarcinoma. Some studies show a prostate adenocarcinoma incidence as high as 50% in men who undergo radical cystectomy, with one third of these patients having high-risk features such as Gleason disease scores of 7-10 or extracapsular extension. Further, up to one third of patients will have TCC involvement of the prostatic urethra, with two thirds of these involving the prostatic stroma.

One group from the Montsouris Institute in Paris has performed more than 100 prostate-sparing radical cystectomies. Men are selected based on (1) normal digital rectal examination results, (2) low serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels, (3) a percent-free PSA of more than 15%, and (4) normal findings on a transrectal ultrasonography of the prostate. Alternatively, men who did not meet the criteria listed underwent prostate biopsies. If their biopsy samples were negative for cancer, the men were candidates for the prostate-sparing approach.[38]

All men underwent transurethral resections of the prostatic urethra and transition zone. If frozen sections were negative for tumor, a prostate-sparing approach was performed, which included anastomosing the neobladder to the prostate capsule. At a mean follow-up of 38 months, 3 patients were being treated for prostate cancer. Pelvic recurrence of TCC occurred in 5% of men, with recurrence in the prostatic fossa in 2%. Complete continence was retained in 98% of men and, of those with adequate preoperative erectile function, 82% maintained their potency status.

Other groups have noted progression in 8 of 10 patients who underwent prostatic capsule and seminal vesicle–sparing cystectomy for T2 bladder cancer.[39] With such concerns about long-term oncologic efficacy, as well as imperfect patient selection and methods of postoperative surveillance, prostate-sparing cystectomy remains a highly controversial approach to patients with bladder cancer.

Laparoscopic and robot-assisted cystoprostatectomy

International experience with laparoscopic and robot-assisted cystoprostatectomy is emerging and is typically followed by urinary diversions performed through an extracorporeal midline abdominal incision measuring 6-10 cm. A literature review found that minimally invasive cystoprostatectomy is typically longer in duration, is associated with less blood loss (300-500 mL), and results in similar pathologic outcomes in terms of surgical margins and local recurrence rates (both rare).[21, 40, 41, 42] Because follow-up is generally short, data on outcomes such as oncologic efficacy (specifically in regard to local or nodal recurrences), longer-term complications, and functional status are lacking. However, the preliminary data suggest that ongoing investigation is warranted to study whether these approaches reliably provide perioperative, oncologic, and/or functional benefits.

A Cochrane review, which included 5 randomized controlled trials with a total of 541 participants, compared robot‐assisted radical cystectomy with open radical cystectomy. Robotic and open cystectomy had similar outcomes with respect to recurrence, major complications, quality of life, and positive margin rates. The robotic approach may substantially reduce the need for blood transfusion and may shorten hospital stay slightly.[43]

Relationship of surgeon and hospital volume to outcome

Emerging data suggest that health-related outcomes may be better when high-volume surgeons or surgeons in high-volume centers perform certain uro-oncologic surgeries.[44] A meta-analysis of the available volume-outcome data suggests that this trend is also valid for radical cystectomy.[45]

Quality of life

Recent quality-of-life instruments have been validated to measure cystectomy-related outcomes. A paucity of retrospective and prospective studies exist.[46] At present, it is not possible to deem one form of urinary diversion superior to another in terms of quality of life.[47] Future prospective randomized studies will help to elucidate the relative benefits of the different forms of urinary diversion.

Molecular markers

An ideal molecular marker for bladder cancer would enhance diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic capabilities. Some urine-based tests are currently available, but large prospective randomized trials are needed to evaluate the prognostic benefits of these modalities.

Current investigation includes blood group antigens, tumor-associated antigens (bladder tumor antigen [BTA], nuclear matrix protein [NMP-22]), markers of cellular proliferation (Ki-67, proliferating cellular nuclear antigen [PCNA]), peptide growth factors (epidermal growth factor [EGF], fibroblast growth factor [FGF], transforming growth factor [TGF]), adhesion molecules (integrin), angiogenesis modifiers (FGF, vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF], thrombospondin-1, angiostatin), apoptotic factors (Caspase-3, Bcl-2, Fas, survivin), oncogenes (c-H-ras, c-myc), and tumor suppressor genes (RB, TP53, p21, p27).[48, 49] Identification of such a marker would assist in recognizing recurrences, estimating tumor aggressiveness, and guiding therapy.

Recently, the combination of p53, p21, pRb, and p16 immunoreactivity has been shown to be strongly correlated with tumor recurrence and survival following radical cystectomy. The addition of the number of altered biomarkers to bladder cancer nomograms has been shown to increase predictive accuracy for both recurrence and cancer-specific mortality. Others have developed a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) signature consisting of 57 genes that may classify high- versus low-risk T1 cases; patients considered to have a high-risk signature had a 45% rate of progression to T2 disease at 2 years, whereas low-risk patients had a 12% rate.[50] Lastly, urinary detection of cytogenetic abnormalities via fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) has proven promising in predicting tumor recurrence.[51] Future oncologic care will no doubt include contributions from molecular medicine.


Questions & Answers


What is bladder cancer?

What is radical cystectomy?

What is the pathophysiology of bladder cancer?

What causes bladder cancer?

What is the US prevalence of bladder cancer?

What is the global prevalence of bladder cancer?

How is bladder cancer diagnosed?

What are the indications for radical cystectomy?

When is radical cystectomy contraindicated?

What is the anatomy of the bladder relevant to radical cystectomy?

What are the types of bladder cancer treated with radical cystectomy?


What is the role of lab tests in the preoperative workup for radical cystectomy?

What is the role of imaging studies in the preoperative workup for radical cystectomy?

How is bladder cancer staged prior to radical cystectomy?

What are the stages of bladder cancer?

Which histologic findings are characteristic of bladder cancer?

What is the role of biopsy in the diagnosis of bladder cancer?


What are the alternatives to radical cystectomy for the treatment of bladder cancer?

What is the efficacy of radical cystectomy in the treatment of bladder cancer?

What is included in cystoprostatectomy performed during radical cystectomy?

What is included in anterior pelvic exenteration performed during radical cystectomy?

What is the role of bilateral pelvic lymphadenectomy during radical cystectomy?

What is included in urinary diversion and reconstruction performed during radical cystectomy?

What is included in outpatient preoperative care for radical cystectomy?

What is the inpatient preoperative care for radical cystectomy?

How are patients prepped for radical cystectomy?

What are the initial steps in radical cystectomy?

How is lymphadenectomy performed during a radical cystectomy?

How is cystoprostatectomy performed during a radical cystectomy?

How is urethrectomy performed during a radical cystectomy?

How is incontinent urinary diversion created during a radical cystectomy?

How is continent urinary diversion created during a radical cystectomy?

How are orthotopic neobladders constructed during a radical cystectomy?

What is a nerve sparing radical cystectomy?

What are the alternative surgical approaches to radical cystectomy?

What is included in postoperative care following radical cystectomy?

What is included in the long-term surveillance following radical cystectomy?

What are the possible complications of radical cystectomy?

What are the reported outcomes of radical cystectomy?

What are the survival rates following radical cystectomy with negative nodes?

What is the prognosis following radical cystectomy with nodal disease?

How does the survival rates following radical cystectomy compare to other treatments for bladder cancer?

What is the role of chemotherapy in patients with lymph node-positive bladder cancer undergoing radical cystectomy?

What is the role of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients undergoing radical cystectomy?

How do the outcomes of bladder-sparing protocols compare to radical cystectomy?

What is the efficacy of prostate-sparing radical cystectomy?

How do the outcomes of laparoscopic and robot-assisted cystoprostatectomy compare to radical cystectomy?

How does surgical volume affect outcomes of radical cystectomy?

What are the quality of life (QoL) outcomes following radical cystectomy?

What are molecular markers for bladder cancer?