• Radical Cystectomy

    (Bladder Removal)


    A radical cystectomy is a surgery to remove the bladder.

    Reasons for Procedure

    Reasons for a cystectomy include:

    Possible Complications

    Complications occur in 25%-35% of patients who have cystectomy. If you are planning to have a cystectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. These may include:
    • Infection
    • Bleeding
    • Loss of sexual function
    • Fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity
    • Damage to other organs
    • Blockage of urine flow from the ureters to the bladder
    • Nutrition problems (depending on the bowel segments used to create a way for urine to drain)
    • Blood clots
    • Reaction to anesthesia
    • Urinary incontinence
    Previous surgery in the abdomen or pelvis or radiation to the area increases your risk of complications.

    What to Expect

    Prior to Procedure

    Doctors recommend that you quit smoking before surgery. You may also need to take antibiotics to prevent infection and laxatives to clean out the bowels.
    The night before, you may be asked not to eat anything and to only drink clear liquids. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight or on the morning of the procedure. This includes avoiding clear liquids, coffee, tea, and water.
    Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, such as:
    • Aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners, such as clopidogrel or warfarin


    General anesthesia is given before surgery. You will be asleep.

    Description of Procedure

    An incision will be made in the abdomen to expose the bladder. All blood vessels to the bladder will be cut. The bladder will then be removed. Other tissues and organs may also need to be removed with the bladder.
    The doctor will also need to create a new way for urine to be passed out of the body. A new bladder may be built using pieces of intestine. Or, an external bag may be attached to the abdomen.
    Kidneys, Ureters, and Bladder
    The Urinary System
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    How Long Will It Take?

    About 3–6 hours

    How Much Will It Hurt?

    Anesthesia will prevent pain during the surgery. Recovery is usually painful. Your doctor will give you medicine to help manage the pain.

    Average Hospital Stay

    The usual length of stay is 5-12 days. The specific length of time will depend on your condition and the reason for surgery. Your doctor may also choose to keep you longer if complications occur.

    Post-procedure Care

    At the Hospital
    • A stay in the intensive care unit for 2-3 days may be needed.
    • During surgery, a tube will be placed from the nose to the stomach. It will stay there for several days. Because you cannot eat with the tube in place, you will receive IV fluids.
    • If a urine bag was attached during the surgery, you will be taught how to dispose of urine.
    At Home
    When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
    When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
    • Difficult physical activity should be avoided for 4-6 weeks.
    • Avoid heavy lifting, straining, and sexual activity until your doctor tells you it is okay.
    • Driving and climbing stairs is usually allowed. Ask your doctor about any restrictions.
    • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
    • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

    Call Your Doctor

    After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
    • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
    • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, heavy bleeding, or discharge from the incision and/or stoma site
    • Nausea and/or vomiting
    • Pain that you cannot control with the medicines you have been given
    • Inability to urinate or difficulty urinating, extreme cloudiness or pus in the urine, a bad odor to the urine
    • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
    In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


    National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/

    Urology Care Foundation http://www.urologyhealth.org/


    Canadian Urological Association http://www.cua.org/

    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/


    Bladder cancer facts. AP John Institute for Cancer Research website. Available at: http://www.apjohncancerinstitute.org/cancer/bladder.htm . Accessed December 17, 2012.

    Campbell M, Wein A, Kavoussi L. Campbell-Walsh Urology . 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders; 2007.

    Cystectomy information binder. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://urology.jhu.edu/bladder/Cystectomy.pdf . Accessed December 17, 2012.

    Maffezzini M, Campodonico F, Canepa G, Gerbi G, Parodi D. Current perioperative management of radical cystectomy with intestinal urinary reconstruction for muscle-invasive bladder cancer and reduction of the incidence of postoperative ileus. Surg Oncol . 2008;17(1):41-48.

    Revision Information

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