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What is cystoscopy?

Cystoscopy is a test carried out to look inside the bladder using a tubular instrument with a camera on one end called a cystoscope.

The cystoscope is inserted into the urethra and into the bladder.

A local anaesthetic is given beforehand to reduce pain for flexible cystoscopy, while rigid cystoscopy is usually done under general anaesthetic.

Flexible cystoscopies allow a doctor to view images of the bladder in real time. Rigid cystoscopies in addition also allow tiny instruments to be used through the tube to carry out procedures or take biopsy tissue samples.


Cystoscopy is performed:

  • To diagnose and evaluate diseases of the lower urinary tract
  • To identify cancers of the bladder or urethra, or prostate cancer
  • To determine the cause of pain in the lower urinary tract
  • To carry out various treatments that can be performed through the cystoscope, such as removing small bladder stones
  • To assess how well a treatment has worked


How does the test work?

Cystoscopes are tubular instruments equipped with lights and viewing devices that are used to examine the interior of the lower urinary tract. There are two types of cystoscopes: a standard rigid cystoscope and a flexible cystoscope. The choice of which scope to use depends on the purpose of the examination.

During the test you will need to lie on your back with your knees up and apart. The urethra is cleaned and then the scope is inserted through your urethra into the bladder.

During the procedure water is passed through the cystoscope and into your bladder. When the bladder is full of water it stretches. This allows your doctor to examine the entire bladder wall.

If any tissue appears abnormal, a biopsy (tissue sample) can be taken through the cystoscope for analysis.

The entire procedure generally lasts about 15 to 20 minutes.

Does the test hurt?

If you have a local anaesthetic you may feel a little discomfort as the cystoscope is inserted into your urethra and bladder. You will probably feel a strong need to urinate when the water fills the bladder. If a biopsy is taken, you may feel a slight pinch.

After the procedure your urethra may be sore and you may feel a burning sensation while urinating for a day or two.


What are the risks of cystoscopy?

The risks of having a cystoscopy include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding from the biopsy area (slight risk)
  • Rupturing of the bladder wall (slight risk)

Seek urgent medical advice if you notice any of the following after a cystoscopy:

  • Severe pain at the insertion site
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • A reduction in urine flow
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 24, 2016

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