A cystoscopy is a procedure that allows doctors to look inside your bladder using an instrument called a cystoscope. A cystoscopy allows a view inside the bladder that cannot be achieved by using other methods like a CT scan or X-Ray. Your doctor or urology nurse will discuss the recommended frequency of cystoscopy with you.
Types of cystoscope
There are two types of cystoscope: flexible and rigid.
A flexible cystoscope is a fibre-optic tube that can move around bends of the urinary system whereas a rigid cystoscope is a solid, straight tube with a light at one end.
Both types of cystoscope have side channels that allow instruments to be inserted but a greater variety of instruments can be used with a rigid cystoscope.
A flexible cystoscopy usually takes about five minutes. An antiseptic will be used to clean the area around the opening of the urethra. Your doctor may also use an anaesthetic gel to numb the area if needed. Your doctor will then pass the cystoscope into the urethra and examine the diameter and lining of the urethra as well as the sphincters. They will then use the cystoscope to examine the lining of the bladder and perform a biopsy if necessary.
After a flexible cystoscopy, it is usually possible to be discharged on the same day.
A rigid cystoscopy takes about 30 minutes and will usually be performed under anaesthetic. Your anaesthetist will discuss anaesthetic options with you before the procedure.
The diameter and lining of the urethra will be examined, as well as the sphincters and bladder lining. A rigid cystoscope can pass a greater variety of instruments so if any problems such as stones or small growths are detected, it may be possible to remove them during the procedure.
After a rigid cystoscopy, it may be possible to be discharged on the same day but your doctor may recommend that you stay in hospital for a longer period.
There are always risks associated with surgical procedures and these should be discussed with your doctor prior to consenting to a procedure.
The risks associated with cystoscopy are as follows:
- Bleeding – there may be a small amount of blood in the urine following cystoscopy. Bleeding is more common if a biopsy is performed. The bleeding should stop on its own. If the bleeding continues you should contact your doctor for advice
- Infection – Whenever a foreign object is inserted into the bladder there is a risk that bacteria may be introduced as well. Every precaution will be taken to minimise the risk of infection but there is a higher risk for urinary tract infection following cystoscopy
- Urethral stricture (narrowing if the urethra due to scar tissue) – This is unlikely following a single cystoscopy but people who use catheters may be at a higher risk. Signs of stricture include difficulty passing catheters or passing urine.