What is the role of voided urine cytology in the diagnosis of bladder cancer?

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
  • Author: Kara N Babaian, MD, FACS; Chief Editor: Bradley Fields Schwartz, DO, FACS  more...
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Answer

Voided urine cytology is the standard noninvasive method for diagnosis in the detection of bladder carcinoma. Cytology is used to assess morphologic changes in intact cells. Exfoliated urothelial cells are viewed using microscopy. In some urothelial cancers, cellular clumping, a high nuclear-to-cytoplasmic ratio, nucleoli, and atypia are seen.

As with any type of cytologic examination, the experience and skill of the cytopathologist is extremely important. Many hospital laboratories lack the personnel and technology necessary to accurately perform this type of study. Good reference laboratories are available if local facilities cannot provide this service.

At least 100 mL of a freshly voided specimen is usually sufficient for urine cytology. The first morning sample should not be used, because cells sitting in the urine overnight tend to become distorted and are difficult to analyze. If the urine is very dilute, the number of cells may be insufficient, necessitating a larger urine volume.

Bladder washings can be obtained by placing a catheter into the bladder and vigorously irrigating with saline (ie, barbotage). Bladder wash cytology yields more tumor cells in the sample and is more sensitive in identifying cancer, especially for high-grade tumors, but it also yields a higher false-positive rate than voided urine cytology. [71]


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