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 them.

Why do I need 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:

  • blockages
  • 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 urine flow
  • 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. Usually this is done in the office in both men and women. Men are given a topical anesthetic to make the procedure more comfortable. The insurance may not cover the cost of this, and you may be asked to sign an ABN (advanced beneficiary notice). The office staff will explain this to you. If your doctor plans to do the procedure at the hospital under 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 the procedure.

The Cystoscopy Procedure

Just before the cystoscopy, you’ll go to the bathroom to empty your bladder. You will be asked to remove your underwear and cover with a sheet while lying down on your back on a treatment table. Your feet may be positioned in stirrups.

Your urethra may be numbed with an anesthetic 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.

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.

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 complications, including:

  • Swollen 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 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.