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

Getting ready for surgery

You’ll be told how to get ready 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 medicine and enemas to empty the intestine.

Removing the bladder

The surgery is done in a hospital. It takes about 4 to 6 hours. Just before surgery, you’ll be given medicine to prevent pain (general anesthesia). This puts you into a state like deep sleep during the surgery. A cut (incision) is then made near your belly button. This exposes the bladder. The area around your bladder is checked 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.

Cross section of male pelvis and abdomen highlighting urogenital tract.
In men, the bladder, lymph nodes, prostate, and often the urethra are removed.
Cross section of female pelvis and abdomen highlighting urogenital tract.
In women, the bladder, uterus, cervix, lymph nodes, urethra, and sometimes part of the vagina are removed.

Creating a new path for urine

After the bladder is removed, you'll need a new way to store and release urine. There are 3 different options. Talk with your healthcare provider about which option would be best for you. The options include:

  • Incontinent diversion. A short piece of intestine is removed and connected to the ureters. The other end is connected to the skin on the front of the belly (abdomen). This forms an opening called a stoma. This procedure is called a urostomy. A small bag is placed over the stoma to collect the urine. 

  • Continent diversion. A valve is created in a pouch made from a piece of intestine. You can empty the pouch several times a day by putting a drainage tube (catheter) into the stoma through the valve. This method doesn't need a collection bag. 

  • Neobladder. A new bladder is made from a piece of intestine and urine is routed back into the urethra, restoring urination. Over time most people are able return to normal urination during the day. But many may still have incontinence at night. 

Risks and possible complications

Possible risks of this procedure include:

  • Infection

  • Bleeding that requires a transfusion

  • Blocked intestine

  • Inability to have an erection or trouble having sex

  • Blood clot in the veins because of physical inactivity

© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.