Prospective interventional trials and retrospective observational analyses provide conflicting evidence regarding the relationship between propofol versus inhaled volatile general anesthesia and long-term survival after cancer surgery. In specific, bladder cancer surgery lacks prospective clinical trial evidence.


Data on bladder cancer surgery performed under general anesthesia between 2014 and 2021 from The National Quality Registry for Urinary Tract and Bladder Cancer and the Swedish Perioperative Registry were record-linked. Overall survival was compared between patients receiving propofol or inhaled volatile for anesthesia maintenance. The minimum clinically important difference was defined as a five-percentage point difference in five-year survival.


Of 7,571 subjects, 4,519 (59.7%) received an inhaled volatile anesthetic and 3,052 (40.3%) received propofol for general anesthesia maintenance. The two groups were quite similar in most respects but differed in ASA physical status and tumor stage. Propensity score matching was used to address treatment bias. Survival did not differ during follow-up (median 45 months [interquartile range, 33 to 62]) in neither the full unmatched cohort, nor following 1:1 propensity score matching (3,052 matched pairs). The Kaplan-Meier adjusted five-year survival rates in the matched cohort were 898/3,052, 67.5% (65.7-69.3) for propofol and 852/3,052, 68.5% (66.7-70.4) for inhaled volatile general anesthesia, respectively (hazard ratio 1.05 [95% CI: 0.96 to 1.15], P = 0.332). A sensitivity analysis restricted to 1,766 propensity score matched pairs of patients who received only one general anesthetic during the study period did not demonstrate a difference in survival; Kaplan-Meier adjusted five-year-survival rates were 521/1,766, 67.1% (64.7-69.7) and 482/1,766, 68.9% (66.5-71.4) for propofol and inhaled volatile general anesthesia, respectively (hazard ratio 1.09 [95% CI: 0.97 to 1.23], P = 0.139).


Among patients undergoing bladder cancer surgery under general anesthesia, there was no statistically significant difference in long-term overall survival associated with the choice of propofol or an inhaled volatile maintenance.