Transurethral Resection of a Bladder Tumor (TURBT)

Banner Image: Dr. Surena Matin of MD Anderson Cancer Center performing a bladder cancer TURBT.

Generally, after the diagnosis of a bladder tumor, the urologist will suggest that the patient have an outpatient procedure in the hospital. This will allow the doctor to examine the bladder more completely under anesthesia (general or spinal). Doctors may also be able to resect (remove) the tumor. To see inside the bladder, they use a resectoscope. This tool has a small loop of wire at the end that can remove a tumor. The loop also cauterizes (seals off) the blood vessels to help stop any bleeding. Like the cystoscope, the resectoscope,  is introduced through the urethra into the bladder.  The doctor may refer to this procedure as a TURBT (transurethral resection of a bladder tumor).

The bladder cancer TURBT is “incision-less” surgery usually performed as an outpatient procedure. It is the first-line surgical treatment for bladder tumors. Newer technology known as “blue light” cystoscopy uses an optical imaging agent is often used during this procedure at major medical centers.

Electricity is also used to seal off bleeding vessels. This is sometimes called electrocauterization or fulguration. One of the advantages of this procedure is that it can be performed repeatedly with minimal risk to the patient and with excellent results. There is less than a 10% risk of infection or injury to the bladder, and both are easily correctable.

The most common risks of the TURBT are bleeding, pain, and burning when urinating and all three are temporary. These side effects of TURBT may be intermittent and can last for up to one month. If the bladder tumor is large, the urologist may choose to leave a catheter in the patient’s bladder for a day or two to minimize problems occurring from bleeding, clot formation in the bladder or expansion of the bladder due to possible storage of excess urine or blood. Even if the tumor is small, a catheter may be inserted to rinse the bladder out if the bleeding persists.

All the specimens from the TURBT will be sent to the pathologist for review. The pathologist will confirm the type of bladder cancer and the depth of invasion into the bladder wall, if any. These findings, along with results from imaging such as CT scans, will determine if further treatment is necessary.

Click here to read our Get the Facts | TURBT (PDF), filled with advice from patients who have experienced it.

Information and services provided by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) are for informational purposes only. The information and services are not intended to be substitutes for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are ill, or suspect that you are ill, seek professional medical attention immediately! BCAN does not recommend or endorse any specific physicians, treatments, procedures or products even though they may be mentioned on this site.