Laparoscopic radical nephroureterectomy: dilemma of the distal ureter

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Purpose of review

Laparoscopic nephroureterectomy has recently emerged as a safe, minimally invasive approach to upper tract urothelial cancers. The most controversial and challenging feature of laparoscopic nephroureterectomy is the management of the distal ureter. We review the most common methods of managing the distal ureter, with emphasis on contemporary oncologic outcomes, indications, advantages, and disadvantages.

Recent findings

There are currently in excess of five different approaches to the lower ureter. These techniques often combine features of endoscopic, laparoscopic, or open management. They include open excision, a transvesical laparoscopic detachment and ligation technique, laparoscopic stapling of the distal ureter and bladder cuff, the ‘pluck’ technique, and ureteral intussusception. Each technique has distinct advantages and disadvantages, differing not only in technical approach, but oncological principles as well. While the existing published data do not overwhelmingly support one approach over the others, the open approach remains one of the most reliable and oncologically sound procedures.


The principles of surgical oncology dictate that a complete, en-bloc resection, with avoidance of tumor seeding, remains the preferred treatment of all urothelial cancers. The classical open technique of securing the distal ureter and bladder cuff achieves this principle and has withstood the test of time. Transvesical laparoscopic detachment and ligation is an oncologically valid approach in patients without bladder tumors, but is limited by technical considerations. The laparoscopic stapling technique maintains a closed system but risks leaving behind ureteral and bladder cuff segments. Both transurethral resection of the ureteral orifice (pluck) and intussusception techniques should be approached with caution, as the potential for tumor seeding exists. Additional long-term comparative outcomes are needed to solve the dilemma of the distal ureter.

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