In this article we report on our experience with the use of urine cytology for the screening and diagnosis of transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder and upper urinary tracts at our institution between January 1987 and December 1995. A total of 76 patients were included in the study. All patients had voided urine cytology studies read as positive or highly suspicious for malignancy and no prior history of TCC of the urinary tract. All these patients subsequently underwent cystoscopy, bladder/ureteral barbotage cytology, random bladder biopsies, and radiographic studies of the upper tracts. Of the 76 patients with positive urine cytology, 53 also had barbotage urine cytologies which were positive. Six of these patients were found to have cystoscopically evident TCC of the bladder, and 1 patient had upper tract TCC. Three other patients subsequently went on to develop TCC of the bladder at 52, 89 and 111 months of follow-up. An additional patient was diagnosed with upper tract TCC at 12 months of follow-up. Among the 23 patients with negative bladder/ureteral barbotage cytology, 3 patients, 2 at the time of initial cystoscopy, and one 15 months later, showed evidence of TCC. Median patient follow-up was 97 (range 35–132) months. Thus of 76 patients with initial positive voided urine cytology studies, only 9 proved to have TCC at initial work-up, while 5 other patients were diagnosed with TCC during a median follow-up of 97 months. The statistical diagnostic values of the bladder/ureteral barbotage urine cytology studies at the time of cystoscopic work-up were: sensitivity 77%; specificity 31%; positive predictive value 13%, and negative predictive value 91%. Our data suggest that in patients without a previous history of TCC, the diagnostic value of bladder barbotage urine cytology is insignificant, and therefore not cost effective to be included as part of the routine work-up of TCC. Moreover, in patients with initially positive voided urine cytology and negative work-up, if the cytology subsequently becomes negative, the likelihood of the development of TCC is low. However, if the initially positive cytology continues to remain positive, there is a much higher probability of TCC being detected in this population.

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