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J Urol. 1998 Dec;160(6 Pt 1):2011-4.

Hydronephrosis as a prognostic indicator in bladder cancer patients.

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  • 1Department of Urology, University of Southern California School of Medicine and Kenneth Norris, Jr. Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, USA.



Pathological stage is the standard measure of prognosis in patients who have undergone radical cystectomy for bladder cancer. Despite the development of new imaging techniques, clinical staging for bladder cancer continues to be inaccurate. We investigated whether the presence of unilateral or bilateral upper tract obstruction could accurately predict advanced cancer stage (extravesical extension, stage greater than p3b or N+).


A retrospective study of 415 patients diagnosed with transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder who were treated with radical cystectomy between 1983 and 1993 was conducted. All patients were followed for survival. The criteria for analysis included hydronephrosis status (no obstruction, unilateral, bilateral) as well as pathological stage of the tumor.


Of 415 patients 72% presented with no, 22.7% unilateral and 5.3% bilateral obstruction. Our results showed a significant correlation between hydronephrosis and advanced cancer stage (p <0.0001), and decreased patient survival (p <0.0001). More than 90% of patients with bilateral obstruction had disease with extravesical extension. Of the patients with unilateral obstruction a third had disease confined to the bladder with a significant proportion confined to the bladder mucosa.


The presence of unilateral or bilateral hydronephrosis is a clinical datum that is already available to help accurately stage bladder tumors. The presence of bilateral obstruction is an ominous sign, while a significant proportion of patients presenting with unilateral obstruction have disease confined to the bladder.

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