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What is TURBT?

By Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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TURBT is an acronym for TransUrethral Resection of Bladder Tumor. This is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon operates on a person with a bladder tumor to take a biopsy, or a sample of tissue, although he may completely remove it. As part of the surgery, and in the case of cancer, he may also burn away any remaining cancer cells in a process called fulguration.

This procedure can be used both for diagnosis and for treatment. A biopsy can confirm whether the tumor is cancerous or not. Using this procedure to remove the tumor is generally reserved for non-aggressive cancer. Aggressive cases, when cancer is spreading rapidly, may require other treatment methods, such as bladder removal.

Typically, the patient is placed under general anesthesia for the operation, meaning that he will be unconscious. To prepare for the anesthesia, the patient will need to avoid eating and drinking for a period of time. Prior to surgery, the patient should discuss all other medical conditions he may have, as well as any medications or supplements he is taking. The surgeon may instruct him to stop using certain medications for a period of time.

Once the patient is unconscious, the surgeon will insert a small camera, called a cystoscope, into the bladder via the urethra. A tool called a resectoscope can then be passed up through the cystoscope. The resectoscope has a wire loop with the ability to transfer an electrical current used to cut tissue.

A biopsy of the tumor can be taken for diagnosis. If the tumor is small and non-aggressive, it may simply be removed. For cancer that has been confirmed to be non-aggressive, the resectoscope can also burn away any remaining cancer cells.

TURBT surgery requires the use of a catheter, or thin tube, that is inserted into the bladder to drain any urine. This procedure can cause urine to become bloody or to contain blood clots. To clear the clots, the doctor may need to flush the bladder. Sometimes, patients are unable to urinate on their own once the catheter is taken out, so they may be sent home with a catheter. They will need to use the catheter until they regain normal bladder function.

While recovering from surgery, patients should drink plenty of water each day. They will also need to avoid heavy lifting, stair climbing, and driving, as well as sexual activity. Normal activities may typically be resumed in about three to four weeks.

Some of the possible risks of TURBT surgery may include a bladder infection, also known as cystitis, and bleeding. Patients may also experience bloody urine, as well as irritation or burning during urination. There is also the risk of blood clots blocking the urethra, as well as perforation of the bladder. Patients should inform their doctor if they develop a fever, abdominal pain, or severe pain with urination. They should also seek medical help if they are unable to urinate or if their urine becomes extremely bloody.

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Discussion Comments
By anon990460 — On Apr 22, 2015

I am scheduled to have this surgery tomorrow. The tumor measures 2 cm. My doctor tells me I should be back to work in five days if all goes well. Has anyone heard of returning to work so soon after having this surgery?

I am a stressed X-ray tech that does a high volume patient load daily and I'm always on my feet with lots of lifting and pulling. My doctor knows this and he works at the same hospital. His decision for me to return to work so soon has me very concerned!

By anon967733 — On Aug 29, 2014

I had the surgery a week ago. I stayed in the hospital for two days with a catheter inserted. After the catheter was removed, I could pass urine with very little blood discolouration. I was allowed to go home the same day.

Since I have been home six days, the pain during urination has reduced considerably with no blood in the urine. I have taken things very easy due to family support visiting regularly since I live alone.

From my point of view, it is a very straightforward operation and

the surgeon and all the hospital staff were outstanding.

By anon964941 — On Aug 08, 2014

I've had this twice now. Nothing to worry about. My surgery was at 8 a.m. I was in recovery at 9:30 am and home by noon. I needed a catheter the first time because blood clots would not pass. I used it for three weeks. This time had no clots, just a little blood. Good luck to you.

By anon952497 — On May 21, 2014

I'm 18 weeks pregnant and have a TURBT anesthesia to remove scape or take samples of two bladder tumours. My worry is whether this could cause a miscarriage?

By flowerchild — On Mar 06, 2011

@lovelife -- I used to work at a urology office. This procedure is considered out-patient and routine. If no complications develop, you are usually sent home the same day.

Your husband will have to take antibiotics a few days before the surgery as well as a few days after to help avoid an infection.

The recovery time is usually a few hours post op, then a regular room for a few more hours, where the nurse will make sure his blood pressure is normal, give him some pain meds and then send you home with instructions to take out his catheter in a few days.

One thing that really helps post op is to hydrate, I can not stress that enough. It will help your husband pass any clots and start to urinate normally.

Best wishes to your husband for a speedy recovery.

By lovelife — On Mar 05, 2011

My husband is getting ready to have this surgery. Can anyone tell me if it is considered a routine surgery or is it somewhat rare and considered dangerous?

We are really worried about this. Thanks.

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