No evidence from trials on the effects of non-surgical treatments for late radiation cystitis, and more research on drugs inserted into the bladder is worthwhile

Radiotherapy to the pelvic area for gynaecological cancer can damage the bladder in some women. This can lead to late radiation cystitis, which can cause urinary problems (including pain), blood in the urine, reduced bladder capacity and/or bladder damage. There can be a cycle of bleeding, infection and occasionally life-threatening complications. Options include treating infections, blood transfusion, catheters (tubes) to release urine, drugs inserted into the bladder, and surgery. The review found there is no evidence from trials to determine the effects of non-surgical treatments for late radiation cystitis, although some drugs inserted into the bladder might help.

Authors' conclusions: 

In such a relatively rare condition there are obvious difficulties in identifying sufficient patients to participate in a randomised controlled trial. The number of published reports is a reflection of the degree of medical interest that exists in providing therapeutic solutions for late radiation cystitis. However, in spite of the two studies of level IIA evidence, the absence of randomised controlled trials makes it impossible to draw any firm conclusions.

Read the full abstract...

Chronic radiation cystitis occurs a minimum of three months after completion of pelvic radiotherapy and represents a range of clinical symptoms for which there is as yet no recommended standard management.


The aim of this review was to identify the various non-surgical treatment options for the management of late chronic radiation cystitis and evaluate the evidence.

Search strategy: 

Synonyms for radiation therapy and for the spectrum of radiation toxicity to the bladder in both text and MeSH terms were combined and applied to a range of databases without restriction of year of publication, methodology or language.

Selection criteria: 

The inclusion criteria included studies of interventions for the non-surgical management of all grades of late radiation cystitis.

Data collection and analysis: 

Out of 80 relevant studies, there were no RCTs that met the inclusion criteria, but there were three prospective case series and two non-randomised studies which assessed different interventions and were not comparable.

Main results: 

Sixty-three reports met the stated inclusion criteria. The majority were predominantly retrospective case series with the exception of two trials which were unrandomised and unblinded studies with a control group for comparison of effect. Although these two trials, Micic 1988, (intravesical placental extract) and Milani 1988, (flavoxate) provided the strongest evidence they were not randomised and were essentially isolated controlled studies.