A cystoscopy is a medical procedure that allows your doctor to examine the lining of your bladder and your urethra.

A cystoscope is a hollow tube with a lens, which is inserted into your urethra and then carefully advanced into your bladder. Cystoscopy is typically performed in an outpatient setting, using a local anesthetic to numb your urethra. If needed, it can also be performed under sedation. Cystoscopy may also be performed in the hospital under general anesthesia.

The specific type of cystoscopy you’ll need depends on the reason for your examination.


Reasons for Having a Cystoscopy

Cystoscopy is used to diagnose and treat medical conditions that affect bladder and urethra. Your doctor may recommend that you undergo a cystoscopy for the following reasons:

  • If you’re suffering from blood in your urine or frequent urinary tract infections, your doctor may recommend a cystoscopy. However, if you have an active bladder infection, your doctor may wait until you complete a course of treatment before performing a cystoscopy.
  • Cystoscopy can diagnose the cause of pelvic pain, including cystitis, bladder stones, and bladder cancer.
  • Pinpoint the cause of an enlarged prostate.

Risks of Cystoscopy

Although rare, there are risks involved with undergoing a cystoscopy. These risks include the following:

  • On rare occasions, undergoing a cystoscopy can cause an infection in the bladder and urethra. To prevent this from occurring, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics for you to take before and after your cystoscopy procedure. Risk factors for developing a urinary tract infection include age, smoking history and the anatomy of your urinary tract.
  • Having a cystoscopy may temporarily cause blood in your urine. Serious bleeding rarely occurs.
  • After having a cystoscopy, you may experience mild abdominal pain or burning with urination

What to Expect

Prior to the procedure, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics. In addition, your doctor may ask that you wait to empty your bladder and have you urinate right before the procedure. If you receive sedation or general anesthesia, you’ll need someone to drive you home after the cystoscopy.

Uncomplicated outpatient cystoscopies can take anywhere between five and 15 minutes to complete. If performed inpatient or under general anesthesia, the procedure may take as long as 30 minutes to perform.

The cystoscopy process may include:

  • You’ll empty your bladder and give a urine sample for analysis. You will then lie on your back on the procedure table and place your feet in stirrups.
  • Anesthesia or IV sedation is given and a numbing jelly is then applied to your urethra. After waiting a few minutes, the cystoscope is then gently advanced through your urethra.
  • Your doctor will examine your urethra and bladder through the lens of the cystoscope. If needed, your doctor may also place a video camera over the lens to project larger images for better visualization and diagnosis.
  • For better visualization, your bladder will be filled with sterile solution. As your bladder fills, you may feel as if you need to urinate.
  • Your doctor may take biopsy samples for laboratory testing.

If you had sedation or anesthesia, you will be sent to the recovery room for further observation. Once cleared, you can return to normal daily activities. Your doctor will schedule a follow-up appointment and discuss the findings once the lab results come back.