Cystoscopy is a procedure to see the inside of the bladder and urethra using a telescope.
How the Test is Performed
Cystoscopy is performed with a cystoscope -- a special tube with a small camera on the end (endoscope). There are two types of cystoscopes:
- Standard, rigid cystoscope
- Flexible cystoscope
The cystoscope can be inserted in different ways, but the test is the same. Which cystoscope your health care provider uses depends on the purpose of the exam.
The procedure will take about take 5 - 20 minutes. The urethra is cleansed. A numbing medicine is applied to the skin lining the inside of the urethra. This is done without needles. The scope is then inserted through the urethra into the bladder.
Water or salt water (saline) flows through the cystoscope to fill the bladder. As this occurs, you will be asked to describe the feeling. Your answer will give information about your condition.
As fluid fills the bladder, it stretches the bladder wall. This lets your health care provider see the entire bladder wall. You will feel the need to urinate when the bladder is full. However, the bladder must stay full until the exam is finished.
If any tissue looks abnormal, a small sample can be taken (biopsy) through the cystoscope and sent to a lab to be tested.
How to Prepare for the Test
Ask your health care provider if you should stop taking any medicines that could thin your blood.
If the procedure is done in a hospital or surgery center, you will need to have someone take you home afterward.
How the Test will Feel
You may feel slight discomfort when the cystoscope is passed through the urethra into the bladder. You will feel an uncomfortable, strong need to urinate when your bladder is full.
You may feel a quick pinch if a biopsy is taken. After the cystoscope is removed, the urethra may be sore. You may have blood in the urine and a burning sensation during urination for a day or two.
The bladder wall should look smooth. The bladder should be of normal size, shape, and position. There should be no blockages, growths, or stones.
What Abnormal Results Mean
There is a slight risk of excess bleeding when a biopsy is taken.
Other risks include:
- Bladder infection
- Rupture of the bladder wall
Drink 4 - 6 glasses of water per day after your cystoscopy.
You may notice a small amount of blood in your urine after this procedure. If the bleeding continues after you urinate 3 times, contact your health care provider.
Contact your health care provider if you develop any of these signs of infection:
- Reduced urine output
Cystourethroscopy; Endoscopy of the bladder
Duffey B, Monga M. Principles of endoscopy. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 8.
Coburn M. Urologic surgery. In: Townsend CM Jr., Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 73.
Update Date 6/2/2014
Updated by: Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.