Discordance between Ureteroscopic Biopsy and Final Pathology for Upper Tract Urothelial Carcinoma

Ezra J. Margolin, Justin T. Matulay, Gen Li, Xiaosong Meng, Brian Chao, Varun Vijay, Hayley Silver, Timothy N. Clinton, Laura Maria Krabbe, Solomon L. Woldu, Nirmish Singla, Aditya Bagrodia, Vitaly Margulis, William C. Huang, Marc A. Bjurlin, Ojas Shah, Christopher B. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Purpose: We evaluated the discordance between ureteroscopic biopsy and surgical pathology findings for grading and staging upper tract urothelial carcinoma. We also sought to establish preoperative predictors of aggressive tumors. Materials and Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the records of 314 patients who underwent ureteroscopic biopsy followed by surgical management of upper tract urothelial carcinoma from 2000 to 2016 at a total of 3 institutions. Our primary outcomes were muscle invasive (pT2 or greater) disease at surgical pathology and upgrading of clinical low grade tumors to pathological high grade. Results: At biopsy 61% of the patients had clinical high grade tumors and 21% had subepithelial connective tissue invasion (cT1+). On final pathology 79% of the patients had pathological high grade tumors and 45% had stage pT2 or greater. On multivariate analysis advanced patient age, clinical high grade and cT1+ were independently associated with pT2 or greater. The combined presence of clinical high grade and cT1+ had 86% positive predictive value for muscle invasion while the combined absence of clinical high grade and cT1+ had 80% negative predictive value. The likelihood of missing invasion on biopsy in patients with muscle invasive disease was increased when biopsy fragments were limited to 1 mm or less. Of clinical low grade cases on biopsy 51% were upgraded at surgery. The presence of positive urine cytology was associated with an increased risk of upgrading but this was not statistically significant. Conclusions: Clinical high grade, cT1+ on biopsy and advanced patient age are independent risk factors for muscle invasive upper tract urothelial carcinoma. There is a significant risk of upgrading in patients with clinical low grade tumors on biopsy, especially when urine cytology is positive. The predictive value of biopsy can likely be improved by more extensive ureteroscopic sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1440-1445
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • biopsy
  • carcinoma
  • neoplasm grading
  • pathology
  • surgical
  • transitional cell
  • ureteroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology


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