What Is a Cystoscopy?
A cystoscope is a thin tube with a camera and
light on the end. During a cystoscopy, this tube is inserted through your
urethra and into your bladder so the doctor can visualize the inside of your
bladder. Your urethra is the tube that carries urine out of your bladder. Magnified
images from the camera are displayed on a screen where your doctor can see
Reasons for Having a Cystoscopy
Your doctor might order this test if you have
urinary problems, such as a constant need to urinate or if you find urination
painful. Your doctor might also order the procedure to investigate reasons for
blood in your urine, frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), an overactive
bladder, or pelvic pain.
A cystoscopy can reveal several conditions,
including bladder tumors, stones, or cancer. Your doctor can also use this
procedure to diagnose:
- enlarged prostate gland
- noncancerous growths
- problems with the ureters (tubes)
connecting your bladder to your kidneys
Cystoscopy can also be used to treat underlying
bladder conditions. Your doctor can pass tiny surgical tools through the scope
to remove small bladder tumors and stones or to take a sample of bladder
tissue. Other uses include:
- taking a urine sample to check
for tumors or infection
- inserting a small tube to assist with
- injecting dye so kidney problems
can be identified on an X-ray
Preparing for a Cystoscopy
Your doctor might prescribe antibiotics
before and after the procedure if you have a UTI or a weak immune system. You
may also need to give a urine sample before the test. If your doctor plans to
give you general anesthesia, you’ll feel groggy afterward and you’ll need to
arrange a ride home. Plan to take time to rest after the procedure at home.
Ask your doctor if you can continue any
regular medications. Certain medications can cause excessive bleeding during
Anesthesia During a Cystoscopy
The procedure might be performed in a
hospital or doctor’s office and you will need some form of anesthesia, so be
prepared for that. Talk to your doctor about your options before the procedure.
Outpatients will generally be given local anesthesia. You can drink and
eat normally on your appointment day and go home immediately after the
With general anesthesia, you may need to fast for a certain number of
hours ahead of time. General anesthesia means you’ll be unconscious during the
Regional anesthesia involves an injection in your back. This will numb you below
the waist. You might feel a sting from the shot.
With either regional or general anesthesia,
you will probably need to stay in the hospital for a few hours following the
The Cystoscopy Procedure
Just before the cystoscopy, you’ll go to the
bathroom to empty your bladder. You’ll change into a surgical gown and lie down
on your back on a treatment table. Your feet may be positioned in stirrups. The
nurse may provide you with antibiotics to help prevent a bladder infection.
At this point, you’ll be given anesthesia. If
you get general anesthesia, this will be all that you are conscious of until
you wake up. If you’re getting a local or regional anesthetic, you may be given
a sedative to relax you. Your urethra will be numbed with an anesthetic spray or
gel. You’ll still feel some sensations, but the gel makes the procedure less
painful. The doctor will lubricate the scope with gel and carefully insert it
into the urethra. This may burn slightly, and it may feel like urinating.
If the procedure is investigatory, your
doctor will use a flexible scope. Biopsies or other surgical procedures require
a slightly thicker rigid scope. The bigger scope allows surgical instruments to
pass through it.
Your doctor looks through a lens as the scope
enters your bladder. A sterile solution will flow through to flood your
bladder. This makes it easier for your doctor to see what’s going on. The fluid
might give you an uncomfortable feeling of needing to urinate.
With local anesthetic, your cystoscopy may
take less than five minutes. If you’re sedated or given general anesthesia, the
entire procedure may take 15 to 30 minutes.
Potential Risks of a Cystoscopy
It’s normal to have a burning sensation while
urinating for a few days after the procedure. You may need to urinate more
frequently than usual. Don’t try to hold it, as the blood in your bladder could
clot and create a blockage. Blood in the urine is also common, especially if
you had a biopsy. Drinking lots of water helps ease the burning and bleeding.
Some people develop more serious
urethra (urethritis): This is the most common
complication. It makes urination difficult. If you aren’t able to urinate for
more than eight hours after the procedure, contact your doctor.
- Infection: In rare cases, germs enter your urinary tract and cause
infection. Fever, strange smelling urine, nausea, and lower back pain are all
symptoms. You might need antibiotics.
- Bleeding: A few people suffer from more serious bleeding.
Call your doctor if you:
- develop a fever higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
- have bright red blood or clots of
tissue in your urine
- are unable to void (even though
you feel the need)
- have persistent stomach pain
Recovering After a Cystoscopy
Give yourself time to rest. Drink lots of
fluids and stay close to the bathroom. Holding a damp, warm washcloth over your
urethra can help relieve any pain.
If you were under general anesthesia, have
someone stay with you. You may feel sleepy or dizzy. Don’t drink alcohol,
drive, or operate complex machinery for the rest of the day.
If you had a biopsy, you’ll need time to
heal. Avoid heavy lifting for the next two weeks. Ask your doctor when it’s
safe to have sexual intercourse.
Interpreting the Results of the Test
Your doctor might have your results
immediately, or it could take a few days. If you had a biopsy, you’ll have to
wait for lab results. Ask your doctor when to expect any news.