Further characterization of the muscle layers and lamina propria of the urinary bladder by systematic histologic mapping: implications for pathologic staging of invasive urothelial carcinoma

Am J Surg Pathol. 2007 Sep;31(9):1420-9. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e3180588283.


The muscularis mucosae (MM) and muscularis propria (MP) are important landmarks for pathologic tumor (pT) staging of urinary bladder cancer, which is the quintessential prognostic factor. In our routine practice, we have occasionally noted patterns of MM, which do not always conform to the originally described configuration of thin slender bundles arranged in a single layer of interrupted, dispersed, or continuous muscle. We evaluated the lamina propria (LP), MM, and MP characteristics in 35 urinary bladder resection specimens with systematic sampling from the dome, trigone, anterior, posterior, right, and left lateral walls. Among the subsites, the trigone had a relatively flatter surface and attenuated LP depth (0.46 to 1.58 mm), about half of the thickest region which was the dome (0.98 to 3.07 mm). The MM was typically in individual or small groups of slender and wavy fascicles or wispy fibers. MM also had focal to rarely extensive hyperplastic appearance (53%, most common in dome) with 2 recognizable patterns: (a) aggregates of hyperplastic MM with haphazard outlines (33%) distinct from that of MP, and (b) hyperplastic compact MM with parallel muscle fibers and regular outline arranged singly or in small groups (45%) that occasionally strongly resembled MP muscle but distinguishable from it on the basis of the location in the LP. By distribution, these muscle bundles were more typically dispersed or formed a discernable layer (41%) as discontinuous or infrequently near-continuous layer. The LP vascular plexus was present in every section most often in association with the MM muscle; however, variations in the distribution were observed. The MP most commonly had a relatively regular interface with the LP. A distinctive pattern was noted in the trigone where occasionally there was gradual diminution of size of the MP muscle bundles as they extended to almost a suburothelial location. In 22%, isolated or small groups of compact regular hyperplastic MM muscle bundles were noted in deep LP situated between the more typical slender MM layer and the MP. In conclusion, there are additional patterns of MM other than previously described. Awareness of the occasionally hyperplastic appearance of MM muscle is important to prevent overstaging of invasive urothelial carcinoma. In transurethral resection specimens, lack of orientation may preclude distinction of the hyperplastic MM from true MP in these rare situations. The number and orientation of muscle bundles, relationship to urothelium and vascular plexus, and comparison with more characteristic MP, if present, would be helpful; isolated bundles immediately adjacent to the urothelium with loose haphazard fiber orientation and irregular outlines favor MM over MP muscle. The hyperplastic MM mimicking MP may be more challenging; isolated muscle bundles immediately adjacent to the urothelium would favor hyperplastic pattern of MM over MP muscle. Topographical variations exist among the subsites, the more superficial location of the MP and the rarity of MM in the trigone, relative abundance of hyperplastic MM in dome, and presence of the more superficial ureteral MP at its insertion in the bladder complicate the traditional pT stage evaluation of invasion in these regions. The inconsistency of a distinct MM layer and variations in the LP vascular plexus indicate that substaging of pT1 would be problematic and thus provides further support to the World Health Organization/International Society of Urological Pathology 1998 and World Health Organization 2004 recommendation against its implementation at the current time.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Societies, Scientific
  • Urinary Bladder / pathology*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / pathology
  • Urothelium / pathology*
  • World Health Organization