Diagnostic ureteroscopy for upper tract urothelial carcinoma: friend or foe?

The European Association of Urology guidelines recommend offering kidney-sparing surgery (KSS) as a primary treatment option to patients with low-risk tumours. Cystoscopy, urinary cytology, and computed tomography urography (CTU) do not always allow correct disease staging and grading, and sometimes there is even a lack of certainty regarding the diagnosis of UTUC. Diagnostic ureteroscopy (d-URS) may therefore be of crucial importance within the diagnostic framework and fundamental in establishing the appropriate therapeutic approach.

A systematic review of the literature was performed in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement. Risk of bias was assessed using Risk of Bias in Non-randomized Studies of interventions (ROBINS-I). Overall, from 3791 identified records, 186 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility. Finally, after a quantitative review of the selected literature, with the full agreement of all authors, 62 studies were considered relevant for this review.

CTU has a sensitivity and specificity for UTUC of 92% and 95% respectively, but is not able to detect small or flat lesions with adequate accuracy. The sensitivity of voided urinary cytology for UTUC is around 67-76% and ranges from 43% to 78% for selective ureteric urine collection. As no technique offers a diagnosis of certainty, d-URS can allow an increase in diagnostic accuracy. In the present review the pros and cons of d-URS were analysed. This technique may provide additional information in the selection of patients suitable for neoadjuvant chemotherapy or KSS, distinguishing between normal tissue and low- and high-grade UTUC thanks to the emerging technologies.

Information obtainable from d-URS and ureteroscopic-guided biopsy can prove extremely valuable when the diagnosis of UTUC is doubtful or KSS is being considered. Notwithstanding concerns remain regarding the potential risk of bladder recurrence, cancer dissemination, and/or delay in radical treatment.Abbreviations: CLE: confocal laser endomicroscopy; CSS: cancer-specific survival; CTU: CT urography; d-URS: diagnostic ureteroscopy; EAU: European Association of Urology; HR: hazard ratio; IMAGE1S: Storz professional imaging enhancement system; IVR: intravesical recurrence; KSS: kidney-sparing surgery; MFS: Metastasis-free survival; NAC: neoadjuvant chemotherapy; NBI: narrow-band imaging; OCT: optical coherence tomography; RFS: Recurrence-free survival; RNU: radical nephroureterectomy; ROBINS-I: Risk of Bias in Non-randomized Studies of interventions; URS(-GB): Ureteroscopy(-guided biopsy); UTUC: upper tract urothelial carcinoma; UUT: upper urinary tract.

Arab journal of urology. 2021 Feb 16*** epublish ***

Angelo Territo, Andrea Gallioli, Iacopo Meneghetti, Matteo Fontana, Jordi Huguet, Joan Palou, Alberto Breda

Urology Department, Fundació Puigvert, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.