Upper urinary tract washings outperform voided urine specimens to detect upper tract high-grade urothelial carcinoma

Cytological examination of voided urine (VU) can reliably diagnose high-grade urothelial carcinoma (HGUC) of the lower urinary tract, but its value in the diagnosis of upper tract HGUC (UTHGUC) is less well-established. To clarify the utility of VU in the setting of UTHGUC, we examined urinary specimens from patients with UTHGUC on follow-up surgical pathology.

52 VU specimens (47 patients) with subsequent biopsy-proven UTHGUC were identified over a 12-year period; 32 had a corresponding upper tract urinary washing (UW) specimen. Patients with concurrent bladder HGUC were excluded. The diagnoses of VU specimens were tabulated and compared to those of UW specimens.

Three UW specimens had a less severe diagnosis, 8 had the same diagnosis, and 21 had a more severe diagnosis than the corresponding VU specimen from the same patient. Significantly more UW specimens demonstrated high-risk features as compared with VU specimens (P = .003). In specimens with atypia, a definitive diagnosis of HGUC was made significantly more often on UW vs. VU specimens (P = .003).

Among patients with confirmed UTHGUC, 50% of preceding VU specimens demonstrated high-grade features compared to almost 90% of UW specimens. Though VU cytology shows atypia in the majority of cases, it performs inferiorly to UW for the detection of UTHGUC.

Diagnostic cytopathology. 2017 May 28 [Epub ahead of print]

M Lisa Zhang, Dorothy L Rosenthal, Christopher J VandenBussche

Department of Pathology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.