Acute Arthritis Secondary to Intravesical Bacillus Calmette-Guérin for Bladder Cancer
Raheem OA, Kalunian K, Kellogg Parsons J. Actas Urol Esp. 2012 Jul 21. [Epub ahead of print]

[Article in English, Spanish]


Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, UC San Diego, San Diego, CA, EE. UU.



We sought to identify the prevalence, presentation, treatment, and prognosis of acute arthritis secondary to intravesical bacilli Calmette-Guérin (BCG) therapy for bladder cancer.


We performed a structured, systematic review of the English language literature pertaining to BCG and reactive arthritis among bladder cancer patients. We extracted data pertaining to prevalence, presentation, management, and prognosis.


We extracted 23 individual case reports and 4 review articles. Thirty-nine patients -31 (80%) male and 8 (20%) female- were described in these publications; we also identified 1 patient from our institution. Although prevalence estimates of reactive arthritis range from 0.5 to 1.0% of all bladder cancer patients receiving BCG, the true prevalence remains unclear. Polyarthritis (68%) and fever (58%) were the most common presenting symptoms. Among patients presenting with joint pain, the knees (41%), ankles (26%), and wrists (19%) were most often affected. The most common time of presentation was immediately following the 4th instillation of a 6-week induction course (25%). Initial therapy in 100% of patients was discontinuation of BCG. Other therapies included nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (25%); steroids (8%); anti-tubercular medications (8%); and combined NSAIDs, steroids, and anti-tubercular medications (20%).


Reactive arthritis is an infrequent but potentially severe complication of intravesical BCG for bladder cancer that typically presents with polyarthritis and fever during induction. The most common treatments include immediate discontinuation of BCG and systemic anti-inflammatory therapy. Further studies are needed to determine prevalence, pathophysiology, and long-term prognosis.