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vol. 16
Clinical research

Prediction of the risk of surgical complications in patients undergoing monopolar transurethral resection of bladder tumour – a prospective multicentre observational study

Sławomir Poletajew
Wojciech Krajewski
Dominika Gajewska
Joanna Sondka-Migdalska
Michał Borowik
Paweł Buraczyński
Mateusz Dzięgała
Marcin Łykowski
Maciej Przudzik
Andrzej Tukiendorf
Rafał Woźniak
Krzysztof Bar
Zbigniew Jabłonowski
Marek Roslan
Marcin Słojewski
Romuald Zdrojowy
Piotr Radziszewski
Konrad Dziobek

Department of General, Oncological, and Functional Urology, Medical University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Department of Urology and Oncological Urology, Wrocław Medical University, Wrocław, Poland
Department of Urology and Urological Oncology, Pomeranian Medical University, Szczecin, Poland
1st Department of Urology, Medical University in Łódź, Łódź, Poland
Department of Urology, University of Warmia and Mazury, Olsztyn, Poland
Department of Urology and Urologic Oncology, Medical University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland
Social Medicine Department, Wrocław Medical University, Wrocław, Poland
Chair of Statistics and Econometrics, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
Maria Sklodowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Centre and Institute of Oncology, Krakow Branch, Krakow
Arch Med Sci 2020; 16 (4): 863–870
Online publish date: 2019/10/07
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Transurethral resection of bladder tumour (TURBT) is one the most commonly performed urological procedure [1, 2]. Despite most bladder cancers being non-muscle invasive (NMIBC), TURBT can be a challenging operation due to high tumour burden, intraoperative bleeding, difficult tumour location, or other factors. Moreover, the experience of surgeon plays a key role in the oncological quality of TURBT [3]. The limited available data indicate that TURBT is a morbid procedure with a risk of surgical complications of 5–20% [4–9]. While these numbers are high in contemporary urology, profound discussion of surgical technique and possible complications is a mandatory part of patient counselling. Unfortunately, up to date, predictors of TURBT complications have not been not adequately identified. This precludes any individual calculation.
The aim of the study was to identify predictors of surgical complications of TURBT.

Material and methods


This prospective, multicentre, cross-sectional, observational study enrolled 983 consecutive patients undergoing TURBT in six academic institutions between January 2017 and July 2017. The mean age of the cohort was 68.8 years (range: 18–98), and the male-to-female ratio was 3 : 1. Inclusion criteria were as follows: age  18 years, resection of bladder tumour, sterile urine preoperatively or ongoing directed antibiotic therapy at the time of surgery, and signed, informed consent. The investigating urologists explained the purpose of the study to each patient, as well as the protection of participant confidentiality and the participants’ freedom to drop out at any time. The study recruited patients with both primary and recurrent bladder tumours. Patients with primary tumours constituted 34.8% of the cohort. In 55% of cases a solitary tumour was resected. The size of the (largest) tumour was > 3 cm in 28.9% of cases and the detrusor muscle was infiltrated in 13.1% of cases. Preoperative micro- or macroscopic haematuria was noticed in 34.2% of patients. Detailed baseline patient characteristics are presented in Table I. The vast majority of patients underwent monopolar TURBT. Patients undergoing restaging resection, cold-cup biopsy, fulguration only, or cystoscopy only were excluded from the analysis.


The primary study endpoint was any intra- or postoperative surgical complication. A full list of clinical events defined as potentially related to TURBT in the study is presented in Table II. All patients were followed-up for 30 days postoperatively with at least one telephone contact at the end of the observation. The variables tested for prediction of complications were as follows: patient basic characteristics (sex, age, nicotine use, height, weight, body mass index – BMI, American Society of Anaesthesiologists score – ASA score, presence of haematuria and/or pyuria), oncological data (stage and grade of bladder cancer, presence of concomitant carcinoma in situ, number of previous TURBTs, recurrence rate, previous intravesical therapy), and surgical details (number and size of tumours, surgeon experience, surgery time, type of anaesthesia, postoperative catheterisation time, postoperative hospitalisation time, presence of muscularis propria in surgical specimen). All study data were collected by each study site in a dedicated uniform electronic form. Before the study initiation, the protocol was registered within ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03029663) and was approved by the Institutional Review Board.

Statistical analysis

For binary outcomes, univariate and multivariate logistic regressions were applied. The statistical influence was expressed by a classical odds ratio (OR) together with a 95% confidence interval (95% CI) and a p-value. The computation was performed in the R platform [10].


Surgical complications were observed in 228 patients (23.2%), including 83 patients (8.4%) with more than one complication. When comparing baseline data between patients without and with complications, the latter had larger tumours (2.6 vs. 1.8 cm, p < 0.01), longer surgery time (36.2 vs. 26.4 min, p < 0.01), longer postoperative catheterisation time (64.0 vs. 25.1 h, p < 0.01), and longer postoperative hospitalisation time (1.9 vs. 1.3 days, p < 0.01).
Table III presents a detailed list of complications noticed within the study. The most common in-hospital complications were postoperative bleeding defined subjectively as presence of the blood in the urine in the postoperative period (n = 139, 14.1%) and intraoperative bladder perforation (n = 46, 4.7%). There were 33 cases of Clavien-Dindo grade  3 complications in 32 patients (3.3%), namely: re-interventions due to bleeding (n = 17, 1.7%), bladder perforation (n = 10, 1.0%), or urinary retention (n = 3, 0.3%); acute coronary syndrome (n = 1, 1.0%); deaths due to pulmonary embolism (n = 1, 1.0%); and myocardial infarction (n = 1, 1.0%). After discharge, the most common complications were lower urinary tract symptoms not related to infection (n = 68, 6.9%), symptomatic urinary tract infections (n = 61, 6.2%), haematuria (n = 53, 5.4%), and urinary retention (n = 6, 0.6%), with six patients (0.6%) requiring reintervention and no Clavien-Dindo grade ≥ 4 complications.
In a multivariate analysis, high ASA score, nicotine use and the presence of high-grade tumour were the most significant predictors of high-grade complications. The stage of the disease was the strongest predictor of bleeding, while the presence of muscle in the specimen and the resident surgeon were the strongest predictors for bladder perforation. Detailed results of the uni- and multivariate logistic regression analyses between clinical factors and endpoints are presented in Table IV and V, respectively. Only statistically significant correlations are presented.


While TURBT is one the most commonly performed urological procedure, literature data on its safety is scarce. The few studies published in the past enrolled limited numbers of patients, had a retrospective nature, or did not lead to any practical conclusions. We prospectively analysed complications of TURBT, finding that the surgery was associated with a relatively high risk of complications. However, the clear majority of them were of low grade and required only conservative management. For the most common high-grade complications, the most important predictors were high ASA score, nicotine use, high cancer stage and grade, presence of muscularis propria in a specimen, and the resident surgeon. Based on our findings, we believe the rate of complications can be further reduced by proper preoperative identification of high-risk patients, who should be operated on with extra caution by an experienced surgeon.
Bladder perforation is probably the most important complication from a clinical point of view. First, it may require laparotomy and cystorrhaphy in cases of intraperitoneal perforation, while all patients usually require prolonged bladder catheterisation and antibiotic prophylaxis, which have their consequences [11]. Second, bladder perforation influences the oncological outcomes by precluding immediate postoperative intravesical chemotherapy instillation and increasing the risk of extravesical cancer spread [12–14]. In our study, we found that resident surgeon and the presence of muscle in a specimen were factors independently associated with over three-fold higher risk of bladder perforation. For this reason, we strongly believe that complex cases should be faced only by experienced endourologists. Moreover, experienced surgeons are more likely to perform a complete TURBT with a muscle in a specimen [15–17]. This leads to reduced recurrence rate at first follow-up cystoscopy in NMIBC cases and shorter time to cystectomy in MIBC cases [15, 16, 18]. On the other hand, in stage Ta tumours, the muscularis propria is not mandatory for completeness of TURBT and proper staging, which was confirmed by Shoshany et al. [19]. These cases seem more appropriate for residents at their learning curve. Finally, we discussed only clinically significant perforations, while radiological signs of perforation can be present in as many as 58% of asymptomatic patients after TURBT [20]. Bleeding was the most common complication observed in our analysis. It affected almost one sixth of patients in the early postoperative period or after discharge. However, the severity of symptoms ranged from patients treated conservatively to others who needed bladder irrigation, blood transfusion, or surgical reintervention. In contrast to our findings, Hollenbeck et al. observed haematuria only in 2.1% of cases in a group of 21,515 TURBTs. At the same time, 30-day mortality of 1.3% was reported [21]. We suppose these differences resulted from the retrospective design of the Hollenbeck study, which hampered precise and adequate data collection on the postoperative course. In the recent observational study by Bansal et al., transient haematuria was observed in 26% of patients, and another 6% of patients required blood transfusion or reintervention due to bleeding after TURBT [5]. A modifiable risk factor of perioperative bleeding is coagulopathy. However, according to available data, it is not justified to discontinue antiplatelet monotherapy with acetylsalicylic acid in patients scheduled for TURBT because it does not reduce the bleeding risk significantly but may increase the cardiovascular risk [22]. Carmignani et al. showed that TURBT is feasible and relatively safe also in patients receiving dual antiplatelet therapy [23]. However, the risk of bleeding and clot retention may be increased in patients receiving anticoagulation therapy [24].
In our study, significant obturator nerve reflex was observed in 2% of cases. There are many possible methods to decrease this risk under debate [25]. One of them is the use of bipolar resection instead of monopolar. In 2016, Cui et al. and Zhao et al. published two independent meta-analyses on the efficacy and safety of monopolar and bipolar TURBT. Both research groups analysed data from eight trials, concluding that bipolar resection is associated with fewer complications compared to monopolar TURBT. However, this conclusion is not universal and differs in detail even between these two meta-analyses. While surgery time, catheterisation time, and blood loss are reduced with bipolar resection, data on the risk of obturator nerve reflex, bladder perforation, or transfusion rate are heterogenous [26, 27]. Moreover, in recent studies published by Balci et al. and Ozer et al. the risk of obturator nerve reflex and bladder perforation is even higher during bipolar than monopolar TURBT [28, 29], while the difference in overall safety was not noticed. In our study, the choice between monopolar and bipolar resection was made by the surgeon. Yet, because of the fact that the majority of procedures were monopolar, the issue was not analysed as a risk factor of complications. Another method to reduce the risk of obturator nerve reflex and bladder perforation in cases of tumours located on later bladder wall is obturator nerve block. While this method is effective [30], its routine implementation in all cases does not seem feasible. In the present study, obturator nerve block was performed only upon request of the operating urologist.
The most important limitation of our study is a short-term follow-up, aimed only at the identification of surgical complications. Because TURBT is an oncological procedure, one can be interested also in the impact of complications on recurrence-free survival, which was not assessed within the study. Another issue is no information regarding surgical technique, especially concerning the use of mono- and bipolar resection or en-bloc and in-fractions resection. While the first issue was discussed before, the latter should also be interpreted with caution because Zhang et al. recently observed no advantage of en bloc resection over conventional TURBT in terms of safety [4]. For grading of complications, we adopted the Clavien-Dindo classification, which is now the most accurate one. However, this classification was developed for postoperative complications only, while there is no analogous classification for intraoperative complications. Additionally, catheterisation time and hospitalisation time can be considered both as predictors and outcomes in this study. While they can increase as a result of intraoperative complications (i.e. bladder perforation), they can also influence the risk of postoperative complications (i.e. urinary tract infection, pneumonia, embolism, etc.). Finally, due to the large number of analyses, bias resulting from accidental observations might appear.
In conclusion, TURBT poses a significant risk of surgical complications, the majority of which are of low grade. The most significant, clinically sound predictors of TURBT complications are high ASA score, history of nicotine abuse, high-grade tumour, high-stage tumour, presence of muscularis propria in the specimen, and the resident surgeon. Proper preoperative identification of patients at high risk of complication may further reduce this risk if the surgery is performed carefully by an experienced surgeon.


All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants. The protocol was registered within ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT03029663) and was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Warsaw Medical University.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants.
The data used to support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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