Your urinary bladder, which holds your pee after it’s filtered by your kidneys, may need surgery for several reasons including bladder cancer. Your bladder may need to be removed, or you may need a reconstructive procedure. There are many different types of bladder surgeries.
Bladder surgery is a procedure on your urinary bladder — the organ below your kidneys but above your urethra that houses your pee. The type of bladder surgery depends on what’s being treated. Conditions that may need surgery include:
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Most bladder surgeries are now done robotically, meaning that your surgeon will just make a small number of incisions and then place ports that allow the use of robotic arms to perform the surgery. Few are open surgeries where there’s a long cut. Types of surgeries include:
Bladder cancer is the most common reason for people to undergo bladder surgery. Depending on the stage and progression of bladder cancer, surgery can be used in combination with other therapies such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. To treat bladder cancer, many different types of procedures may be done. Those procedures include:
Your urine bladder (not to be confused with your gallbladder), stores your pee after your kidneys filter it. Pee goes from your kidneys down the ureters and into your bladder, where it’s stored before exiting your body through your urethra.
Your bladder is made of muscular, flexible tissues that can expand bigger or shrink smaller depending on how much pee it contains. The muscles in your bladder contract when they push your pee through your urethra.
Almost 85,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2021. It’s the sixth most common cancer in the United States and the third most common cancer for males. Bladder surgery is typically part of the treatment plan for bladder cancer. Radical cystectomy — where your entire bladder is removed — is the type of bladder surgery used for muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC).
Bladder surgeries are performed by a surgical urologist. Urologists specialize in both male and female urinary tracts.
This depends on the type of surgery you’re having. Ask your healthcare provider if you’ll need to stay in the hospital. It could be days, or it could be weeks.
Yes. If you don’t have your bladder, you’ll have to have a urostomy or neobladder urostomy reconstructive surgery.
Your healthcare provider may recommend you stop taking any medications that risk bleeding during your bladder surgery. You should stop the following medications about a week before:
Blood thinners, such as:
Some antibiotics, blood pressure medications and herbal medications or supplements may also be restricted. You’ll also be asked to stop smoking and using tobacco products. Besides the negative health consequences that smoking has, tobacco use can lead to higher risks both during and after surgery. Tobacco has been proven to slow down the healing process and decrease the effectiveness of the immune system.
Don’t discontinue any medication without your healthcare provider’s instruction.
Your provider will likely recommend you change your diet the day before your surgery and follow a clear liquid diet starting the morning before your surgery. This includes juices without pulp, soup broth and Jell-O. It’s also important to arrange for someone to care for you after surgery as returning to normal activity is not recommended immediately.
There is no one way to approach all bladder surgeries. Each condition treated with bladder surgery requires a different approach or different surgery. When you talk to your healthcare provider about undergoing bladder surgery, make sure you understand and feel comfortable with what is explained to you.
Nowadays, most bladder surgeries are done robotically. This means that instead of an "open" surgery, which requires one large incision, your surgeon will use a few much smaller incisions. Doing surgery this way reduces healing time, risk factors and reduces scarring during the healing process.
The specifics of recovering from bladder surgery depend a lot upon the type of bladder surgery that you have. For example, in a transurethral resection much less tissue is removed or changed in the surgery than during a radical cystectomy where the entire bladder is removed. Thus, the recovery time after your procedure can vary. Your healthcare provider will help guide you through the recovery process including a voiding trial (where your healthcare provider will test your ability to pee on your own after surgery) and catheter care instructions.
Not long after your surgery, you’ll need to get checked out again by your healthcare provider. Report any problems you’ve had since your procedure. If you’ve had bladder cancer, they might need to insert a camera into your bladder to check it.
Yes. You will be under general anesthesia which will put you to sleep.
All surgeries come with risks. Bleeding, infection and internal damage are typically a risk in any surgery.
There can be complications of bladder surgery. You are at higher risk if you are over the age of 60 or designated female at birth. Possible problems include:
This depends on which procedure you get. Ask your healthcare provider.
Don’t exercise or lift heavy objects for at least a few weeks.
Be sure to get plenty of fluids. If you don’t get enough water, you’re risking a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Your healthcare provider will likely give you pain medications. Ask about any other medications before you go home.
Contact your surgeon if you have any of the following symptoms:
Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of any of the conditions that require bladder surgery to treat. Bladder cancer symptoms you should report include:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/06/2021.
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