WASHINGTON (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – Universal cystoscopy at the time of hysterectomy – or at least more frequent use of the procedure – is worth considering since delayed diagnosis of urinary tract injury causes increased morbidity for patients, and in all likelihood increases litigation, Dr. Jay Goldberg and Dr. Cheung Kim suggested at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

“We’re often hesitant to do cystoscopy because we don’t want to add time,” said Dr. Kim . “But I always feel that no matter how much time it takes, I’ll be happier in the end if I do it. [And] if you have [experience], a routine, and readily available equipment, it can take as little as 10 minutes.”

Universal cystoscopy to confirm ureteral patency is “fairly straightforward, low risk, and more likely to detect most injuries [than visual inspection alone], particularly ureteral injuries,” Dr. Kim said. On the other hand, it adds to operating time and increases procedure cost, and there is some research suggesting it may be relatively “low yield” and lead to some false positives.

Dr. Kim and Dr. Goldberg both practice at the Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia. Here are some of the findings they shared, and advice they gave, on the use of cystoscopy – universal or selective – after hysterectomy.

Conflicting findings

There is conflicting opinion as to whether universal or selective cystoscopy after hysterectomy is best, and “there’s data on both sides,” said Dr. Goldberg, vice chairman of ob.gyn. and director of the Philadelphia Fibroid Center at Einstein.

A prospective study done at Louisiana State University, New Orleans, to evaluate the impact of a universal approach, for instance, showed an incidence of urinary tract injury of 4.3% (2.9% bladder injury, 1.8% ureteral injury, plus cases of simultaneous injury) in 839 hysterectomies for benign disease. The injury detection rate using intraoperative cystoscopy was 97.4%, and the majority of injuries – 76% – were not suspected prior to cystoscopy being performed ( Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Jan;113[1]:6-10 ).

But researchers in Boston who looked retrospectively at 1,982 hysterectomies performed for any gynecologic indication found a much lower incidence of complications, and reported that cystoscopy did not detect any of the bladder injuries (0.71%) or ureteral injuries (0.25%) incurred in the group. Cystoscopy was performed selectively, however, in 250 of the patients, and was either normal or omitted in the patients who had complications ( Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Dec;120[6]:1363-70 ).

Cystoscopy failed to detect any of the bladder injuries, but “all five of the ureteral injuries occurred in patients who had not undergone cystoscopy,” said Dr. Kim, chairman of ob.gyn. at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery in East Norriton, Pa.

Possible false-positives

Cystoscopy may lead on occasion to an incorrect presumption of a ureteral injury in patients with a pre-existing nonfunctional kidney, Dr. Goldberg noted.

He relayed the case of a 42-year-old patient who underwent a total abdominal hysterectomy without apparent complication. Cystoscopy was then performed with indigo carmine. An efflux of dye was seen from the left ureteral orifice but not from the right orifice.

Urology was consulted and investigated the presumed ureteral injury with additional surgical exploration. Intraoperative intravenous pyelogram (IVP) was eventually performed and was unable to identify the right kidney. A CT then showed an atrophic right kidney with compensatory hypertrophy of the left kidney, probably due to congenital right multicystic dysplastic kidney.

An estimated 0.2% of the population – 1 in 500 – will have a unilateral nonfunctional kidney, the majority of which have not been previously diagnosed. Etiologies include multicystic dysplastic kidney, congenital unilateral renal agenesis, and vascular events. “As we do more and more cystoscopies, this scenario is going to come up every so often,” said Dr. Goldberg, who reported on two such cases last year ( Obstet Gynecol. 2015 Sep;126[3]:635-7 ).

It is also possible, Dr. Kim noted, that a weak urine jet observed on cystoscopy may not necessarily reflect injury. In the LSU study evaluating a universal approach, there was no injury detected on further evaluation in each of the 21 cases of low, subnormal dye efflux from the ureteral orifices. “So it’s not a benign process to undergo cystoscopy in terms of what the ramifications might be,” Dr. Kim said.

Increasing use

Ob.gyn. residents are required by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to have completed 15 cystoscopies by the time they graduate, and according to recent survey findings, residents are more likely to utilize universal cystoscopy at the time of hysterectomy than currently practicing gynecologic surgeons.

The survey of ob.gyn residents (n = 56) shows universal cystoscopy (defined as greater than 90%) was performed in only a minority of cases during residency: 27% of total laparoscopic hysterectomies (TLH), 14% of laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomies (LAVH), 12% of vaginal hysterectomies (VH), 2% of total abdominal hysterectomies (TAH), and 0% of supracervical hysterectomies (SCH), for instance.

Yet for every hysterectomy type, residents planned to perform universal cystoscopy post-residency more often than they had during their training (49% TLH, 34% LAVH, 34% VH, 15% TAH, 12% SCH), and “residents familiar with the literature on cystoscopy were statistically more likely to plan to perform universal cystoscopy,” said Dr. Goldberg, the senior author of the paper ( Womens Health (Lond Engl). 2015 Nov;11[6]:825-31 ).

Litigation possible

Failure to detect a urinary tract injury at the time of hysterectomy may result in the need for future additional surgeries. Litigation in the Philadelphia market suggests that “if you have an injury that’s missed, there’s a chance that litigation may result,” Dr. Kim said.

Plaintiff’s attorneys have argued that not recognizing ureteral injury during surgery is a deviation from acceptable practice, while defense attorneys have contended that unavoidable complications occur and that no evaluation is required, or supported by the medical literature, when injury is not intraoperatively suspected. Currently, as cystoscopy is performed less than 25% of the time for all types of hysterectomy, the standard of care does not require the procedure intraoperatively if no injury is suspected, Dr. Goldberg said.

Primary prevention of urinary tract injury is most important, both physicians emphasized. The best way to accomplish this is to meticulously identify the anatomy and know the path of the ureter, and to document that the ureter has been identified and viewed as outside of the operative area, they said.

Dr. Kim and Dr. Goldberg reported having no relevant financial disclosures.


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