Transurethral Resection for Bladder Cancer

NYU Langone urologic oncologists are doctors who specialize in the surgical treatment of cancer of the urinary system. They may use a procedure known as transurethral resection to remove early, noninvasive bladder cancer that has not grown into the muscular wall of the organ. The procedure is also used to diagnose bladder cancer.

During the procedure, physicians insert a cystoscope, a small, rigid tube containing a tiny, lighted video camera on the end, into the urethra. The urethra is a tube-like structure that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.

Doctors pass the cystoscope through the urethra and into the bladder to locate the tumor. A flexible instrument called a resectoscope is then inserted through the cystoscope sheath. The resectoscope has a wire loop that is used to remove the tumor.

Our surgeons have access to a new technology called blue light cystoscopy, which they can use during transurethral resection to detect and remove early cancer. NYU Langone was an early adopter of this approach and one of the first medical centers in New York City to make blue light cystoscopy available to people for the treatment of bladder cancer.

For this procedure, surgeons inject a special contrast solution into the bladder through a catheter, or hollow tube, placed in the urethra. Doctors wait about an hour for this solution to accumulate in bladder cancer cells.

They then insert a cystoscope that has a special blue light on the end into the bladder. The contrast solution makes cancer cells turns pink or red under this blue light.

Blue light cystoscopy helps doctors to find and remove more early cancers during transurethral resection. The procedure has also been shown in clinical trials to result in more complete removal of tumors, reducing the risk of bladder cancer recurrences compared to using a standard cystoscope.

As the bladder heals from surgery, doctors may also place a urinary catheter into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine from the body. The catheter leads to the outside of the body, where it empties urine into a plastic bag. Our doctors can show you how to manage the catheter and empty the drainage bag. A catheter may be worn for a couple of days, as you recover.

Transurethral resection is usually performed using general anesthesia, but it can also be done with a regional anesthesia, meaning medication is given to block pain in a part of the body. People can typically go home the same day.

Some minor bleeding may occur and be visible in the urine for a few days or weeks afterward. Your doctor may recommend intravesical chemotherapy, given through a urinary catheter, after the procedure to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

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