Transurethral resection of bladder tumor (TURBT) is a common surgery for bladder cancer. Blood in your urine is the most common side effect after surgery. More severe side effects are rare.

TURBT is one of the most common treatments for bladder cancer. During the procedure, a surgeon inserts a thin instrument called a resectoscope into your urethra. They can use this instrument to remove the tumor and some surrounding tissue without needing to make an incision.

Although TURBT can be effective at treating bladder cancer, it also comes with a risk of side effects. In this article, we examine the potential side effects and how often they develop.

About 70–75% of people with bladder cancer have a tumor limited to their bladder’s outermost layer, called the mucosa. TURBT is the most common treatment for these cancers.

In a 2020 study from Poland, researchers reported the complication rates among 983 people who were treated with the most common type of TURBT at six academic hospitals.

Complications during the surgery, in order of frequency, were:

  • bladder perforation or rupture (in 4.7% of people)
  • electrical stimulation of the obturator nerve, which can cause leg spasms and bladder perforation (2%)
  • gas explosion from surgical procedures (0.4%)
  • injury to the urethra (0.4%)

The most common side effect that occurred during hospitalization after surgery was blood in urine, which affected about 1 in 7 people. Less common side effects included lower urinary tract symptoms — such as urinary tract obstructions — in about 1 in 40 people and bleeding requiring further surgery in about 1 in 60 people.

Rare side effects (occurring in 1% or less of people) during hospitalization included:

Some people experience side effects from TURBT surgery even after hospital discharge. The most common side effects within 30 days of leaving the hospital in the above study were:

  • urinary tract infections
  • other lower urinary tract symptoms
  • blood in urine

Side effects that occurred in less than 1% of people during that time included:

How common are complications after TURBT?

Studies have reported complication rates anywhere from 5–20% after TURBT. Mild burning in your urinary tract and blood in your urine are among the most common side effects.

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It’s important to contact a doctor if you notice any concerning symptoms after your procedure, such as worsening pain or a fever. It’s also important to attend all scheduled follow-ups so your healthcare team can check whether your procedure was effective.

Treatment options for bladder cancer depend on the stage of your cancer. Options for each stage include:

Stage 0• TURBT with chemotherapy
intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG), a type of immunotherapy
Stage 1• TURBT, often more than once, followed by intravesical BCG
cystectomy (bladder removal)
radiation therapy, often with chemotherapy
Stage 2• TURBT
• cystectomy
• radiation therapy
• immunotherapy drug nivolumab (Opdivo)
• a second TURBT followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy
Stage 3• TURBT
• cystectomy
• chemotherapy before surgery, with or without radiation
• a second TURBT followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy
• nivolumab
Stage 4• chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy
• immunotherapy
• cystectomy
urinary diversion without cystectomy to prevent or treat a blockage

Learn more about bladder cancer treatment.

It’s important to take it easy after your procedure so your body has time to recover. Drinking plenty of clear fluids can also help the recovery process.

It’s best to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for about 2 weeks or until your doctor tells you it’s OK.

Here are some frequently asked questions that people have about the side effects of TURBT.

What is the most common complication of TURBT?

The most common complications of TURBT include blood in your urine and pain when urinating.

How long do side effects of TURBT last?

It can take up to 6–7 weeks for blood in your urine to go away completely after your procedure.

Is TURBT a high risk procedure?

TURBT is typically a safe procedure. About 1 in 4 people experience at least one side effect after TURBT, with 1 in 12 experiencing more than one. But, most side effects are minor and are manageable with conservative treatment alone.

How many times can you have TURBT for bladder cancer?

Experts currently recommend having more than one TURBT if necessary if you have high risk nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer to avoid the need for a cystectomy. In a 2015 study from South Korea, some people received TURBT up to five times.

TURBT is the most common treatment for bladder cancer contained to the outermost layer of your bladder. It can cause many side effects, such as blood in your urine, pain when urinating, or a urinary tract infection.

Serious side effects, such as bladder perforation or severe cardiovascular events, are possible, but the risk of these is small.