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What is a cystoscopy?

A cystoscopy is a medical procedure. It involves a doctor using an instrument called a cytoscope (a thin tube with a light and a small camera at the end) to look inside the bladder.

It is important in diagnosing conditions that affect the bladder and urinary system.

Why a cystoscopy?

A cystoscopy allows a doctor to see inside the bladder. It is often recommended for people who have blood in their urine. It can also be used to find and treat bladder cancer and bladder stones.

How to prepare for the procedure

Your preparation for a cystoscopy depends on the type of anaesthetic being used.

If you are going to have a general anaesthetic you must stop eating and drinking several hours before the procedure.

If you are going to have a spinal anaesthetic (an epidural) you must stop eating and drinking several hours before the procedure.

If you are having a local anaesthetic you can eat and drink as usual.

Ask your doctor about medications. You might need to stop taking medicines such as aspirin for a few days before the procedure. But don't stop any medications without asking your doctor first.

What happens during the procedure?

A cystoscopy is usually an outpatient procedure. You will be able to go home the same day.

During the cystoscopy, the cytoscope is inserted into the tube that carries urine out of the body (the urethra). It is moved into the bladder. Your urologist can then see images of the inside of the bladder on a screen.

  • A flexible cystoscope will be used if the specialist only needs to look inside the bladder. If you have this procedure, you will probably receive a local anaesthetic gel or spray to numb the area.
  • A rigid cystoscope will be used to take a sample of bladder tissue or treat the area by passing small surgical instruments down the tube. In this case you will probably have a general anaesthetic or an epidural (spinal anaesthetic).

A cystoscopy can be uncomfortable, but it is usually not painful.

Care after a cystoscopy

You might feel tired and sick after a cystoscopy. You might feel some pain in your groin.

You might also feel a burning sensation when you pass urine. You might see some blood in your urine. This will clear up within a few days.

What can go wrong

Serious complications after a cystoscopy are rare.

For a few days after a flexible cystoscopy, you may see blood in your urine and feel mild discomfort when passing urine.

With a rigid cystoscopy, you may have some difficulty controlling your bladder (incontinence) for the first few hours after the procedure, but this will usually settle. You may also have some discomfort, need to pass urine urgently or have blood in your urine for a few days.

Bleeding persists very rarely. If it does, discuss with your doctor.

There is also a small risk of developing a urinary tract infection. This can affect your urethra, bladder or kidneys.

If you experience any side effects, such problems with bleeding or passing urine or develop a fever, it is important to see your doctor as soon as possible.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2021

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