What is a TURBT (Transurethral Resection of Bladder Tumor)?

TURBT stands for transurethral Resection of a Bladder Tumor. It requires a specialized type of cystoscope that has been modified to include a mechanism to cut out bladder tumors. This specialized scope is called a resectoscope and is inserted the same way as a cystoscope. A wire loop is attached that can be extended back and forth. A small electrical current is passed through the wire loop, giving it the ability to cut through tissue. The loop also cauterizes the tissue, thus preventing bleeding. The loop is then removed, and the cut pieces of tissue are irrigated out of the bladder.

The tissue is sent to a pathologist who examines it under a microscope to determine whether it is cancerous. It typically takes several days for the pathologist to prepare and examine the tissue. For superficial bladder cancers, a TURBT is a definitive procedure. Definitive means that it may completely remove the tumor. For tumors that extend deep into the muscle of the bladder, TURBT allows for identification of the depth of invasion but is not definitive; thus, another type of treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation) will be required. Most patients will not need to stay in the hospital overnight after a TURBT.

The final decision on staying in the hospital or returning home is made based on the amount of resection necessary and the amount of blood in the urine after the procedure. These two factors will also determine whether a catheter needs to be left in place after the procedure, usually for a few days.