PURPOSE In this systematic review we determined whether the outcome of orthotopic bladder replacement is superior to that of continent and incontinent urinary diversion. MATERIALS AND METHODS We searched MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library from January 1990 to January 2003. A total of 3,370 abstracts were reviewed, including all types of studies from prospective, randomized, controlled studies to small, retrospective series. All relevant articles with at least 10 patients and a mean followup of at least 1 year were retrieved. There were no language restrictions. NonEnglish articles were translated. Comparisons were made between the major surgery types, including ileal conduit, continent diversion, bladder reconstruction and bladder replacement. All studies were scored using a predetermined quality assessment checklist to assess internal validity (bias and confounding) and external validity. RESULTS A total of 405 studies met inclusion criteria. There were 32 prospective and 373 retrospective studies describing a total of 32,795 patients. The majority of studies were incompletely or poorly described and outcomes were often not defined. When they were defined, definitions varied. In clinical outcomes ileal conduit diversions had the lowest operative complications rate but highest reported postoperative morbidity. They also had a higher reported incidence of symptomatic urinary tract infections. The rates of postoperative morbidity, mortality and need for reoperation varied widely among studies even for the same procedure. Of physiological outcomes metabolic acidosis was the most commonly reported metabolic complication in patients with various urinary diversions. The quality of the reported literature was poor. There were no studies of the health economic implications of performing 1 type of surgery vs another type. CONCLUSIONS While enthusiasts regard orthotopic bladder replacement as the new gold standard when lower urinary tract function must be replaced, the level and quality of current evidence are poor. The immediate concern must be to rectify this paucity of evidence with well designed and well reported prospective studies, ideally in a randomized setting, comparing the various major forms of urinary diversion and bladder replacement surgery.