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The Effect of Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy on Perioperative Outcomes in Patients Who Have Bladder Cancer Treated with Radical Cystectomy: A Population-based Study

Take home message

The use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy in patients who have bladder cancer treated with radical cystectomy is not associated with a higher risk of perioperative morbidity or mortality. Efforts should be made to improve guideline adherence to the use of this treatment modality when clinically indicated.

Publication: European Urology, Volume 66, Issue 3, September 2014, Pages 561-568

PII: S0302-2838(14)00065-7

DOI: 10.1016/j.eururo.2014.01.014


Although therapeutic guidelines recommend the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy before radical cystectomy (RC) in patients who have muscle-invasive bladder cancer (MIBC), this approach remains largely underused. One of the main reasons for this phenomenon might reside in concerns regarding the risk of morbidity and mortality associated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy.


To compare perioperative outcomes between patients receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy and those treated with RC alone.

Design, setting, and participants

Relying on the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results–Medicare-linked database, 3760 patients diagnosed with MIBC between 2000 and 2009 were evaluated.


RC alone or RC plus neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis

Complications occurred within 30 and 90 d after surgery. Heterologous blood transfusions (HBTs), length of stay (LoS), readmission, and perioperative mortality were compared. To decrease the effect of unmeasured confounders associated with treatment selection, propensity score–matched analyses were performed.

Results and limitations

Overall, 416 (11.1%) of patients received neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Following propensity score matching, 416 (20%) and 1664 (80%) patients treated with RC plus neoadjuvant chemotherapy and RC alone remained, respectively. The 30-d complication, readmission, and mortality rates were 66.0%, 32.2%, and 5.3%, respectively. The 90-d complication, readmission, and mortality rates were 72.5%, 46.6%, and 8.2%, respectively. When patients were stratified according to neoadjuvant chemotherapy status, no significant differences were observed in the rates of complications, HBT, prolonged LoS, readmission, and mortality between the two groups (all p ≥ 0.1). These results were confirmed in multivariate analyses, where the use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy was not associated with higher risk of 30- and 90-d complications, HBT, prolonged LoS, readmission, and mortality (all p ≥ 0.1). Our study is limited by its retrospective nature.


The use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy is not associated with higher perioperative morbidity or mortality. These results should encourage wider use of neoadjuvant chemotherapy when clinically indicated.

Patient summary

Chemotherapy before radical cystectomy in patients with muscle-invasive bladder cancer does not increase the risk of complications or death. The use of chemotherapy should be strongly encouraged, as recommended by clinical guidelines, given its benefits.