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Cystectomy is surgery to remove the urinary bladder. It may be done in certain cases of bladder cancer. Your doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of the surgery with you.

Cutaway view of the male urinary tract

Cutaway view of the female urinary tract

Preparing for surgery

You’ll be told how to prepare for surgery. These instructions may include:

  • Donating your own blood a few days before the surgery. This is in case you need a transfusion during the surgery.

  • Taking antibiotics before surgery. This is to help prevent infection.

  • Not eating or drinking anything a certain amount of time before surgery.

  • Clearing your intestine. You may do this by drinking a special liquid at home. Or you may be admitted to the hospital the night before surgery and given medication and enemas to empty the intestine.

Removing the bladder

The surgery is done in a hospital. It takes about 4–6 hours. Just before surgery, you’ll be given medication called general anesthesia to prevent pain. This puts you into a state like deep sleep during the surgery. An incision is then made near your bellybutton. This exposes the bladder. The area around your bladder is examined to see if the cancer has spread. If it has, the surgery may not be continued. If the cancer is only in the bladder, the bladder is removed. Other organs near the bladder may be removed as well. This is in case cancer cells may have spread to those organs.

Creating a new path for urine

After the bladder is removed, you will need a new way to store and release urine. You may need a new opening for urine to travel out of the body. This is done with a procedure called a urostomy. Your doctor will explain this procedure to you.

Risks and possible complications

  • Infection

  • Bleeding that requires a transfusion

  • Blockage of intestine

  • Inability to have an erection

  • Blood clot in the veins because of physical inactivity


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