What are the limitations of transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) imaging techniques?

Updated: Aug 21, 2016
  • Author: Ali Nawaz Khan, MBBS, FRCS, FRCP, FRCR; Chief Editor: Eugene C Lin, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

Plain radiographic findings are nonspecific, particularly the presence of calcification, which has a wide differential diagnosis. Filling defects in the renal collecting system and the bladder, as seen with IVU, CT, and retrograde pyelography, are present in a number of other pathologies. These findings are not specific to TCC.

On CT scans, a hyperattenuating TCC may be confused with a blood clot, particularly in the early stages of the disease. Also, inhomogeneous renal fatty attenuation of any cause in a patient with undiagnosed early-stage TCC may hinder accurate diagnosis.

MRI is expensive and has limited availability. False-positive diagnoses have been reported. In staging bladder TCC, tumor extension is overstaged according to the TNM classification in 7.5% of patients; it is understaged in 32.5% of patients.

On sonograms, calculi may be confused with high-grade TCCs, which can be densely echogenic. No sonographic features are specific for TCC, and many filling defects within the renal collecting system and bladder have a nonspecific appearance. It is also difficult to discern nondilated ureters on ultrasonography.


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