A cystoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the inside of the bladder using an instrument called a cystoscope. A cystoscope is a thin, fibre optic tube that has a light and a camera at one end. It’s inserted into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) and moved up into the bladder. The camera relays images to a screen, where they can be seen by the urologist (specialist in treating bladder conditions).
There are two types of cystoscope:
• flexible cystoscope – a thin, flexible tube used when the only purpose of a cystoscopy is to look inside your bladder
• rigid cystoscope – a thin, straight metal tube used for passing small surgical instruments down through the cystoscope to remove a tissue sample or carry out treatment
Most cystoscopies are carried out as outpatient procedures, so you’ll be able to go home on the same day.
A cystoscopy can be used to investigate and treat symptoms and conditions that affect the bladder and urinary system. For example, it can be used to:
- check for abnormalities in the bladder
- remove a sample of bladder tissue for further testing (a biopsy) in cases of suspected cancer
- treat certain bladder conditions, such as removing small bladder stones
A flexible cystoscopy is usually carried out using a local anaesthetic gel or spray to numb the urethra. This will reduce any discomfort when the cystoscope is inserted into the urethra.
A rigid cystoscopy is usually carried out under general anaesthetic (where you’re asleep), or a spinal anaesthetic (epidural) that numbs all feeling below your spine.
However, for some people, the procedure may feel uncomfortable and can lead to mild side effects afterwards, such as muscle pain and nausea.
For a few days after the procedure, you may feel a burning sensation when passing urine and you may also pass blood in your urine. This is normal and isn’t something to worry about, unless it’s severe and lasts longer than a few days.