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Cystoscopy

Read about the cystoscopy procedure, including what happens before, during, and after it.

There are two types of cystoscopy: a flexible cystoscopy and a rigid cystoscopy.

Both involve passing a thin viewing tube called a cystoscope along the urethra (the tube that carries pee out of the body) and into the bladder, but they're done in slightly different ways.

Men and women can have either type of cystoscopy. Ask your doctor or nurse which type you're going to have if you're not sure.

This page has information about:

Flexible cystoscopy

Rigid cystoscopy

Flexible cystoscopy

A flexible cystoscopy is where a thin (about the width of a pencil) and bendy cystoscope is used. You stay awake while it's carried out.

Preparation

You'll be sent instructions to follow before your appointment. This will include advice about eating, drinking, and what to do about any medicines you're taking.

You can usually eat and drink as normal before a flexible cystoscopy.

Before the procedure starts, you'll be asked to undress from the waist down and put on a hospital gown.

You may be asked to pee into a container so it can be checked for an infection. The procedure may be delayed if a urine infection is found.

The procedure

For a flexible cystoscopy:

  • you lie down flat on a special couch
  • your genitals are cleaned with an antiseptic and a sheet is placed over the surrounding area
  • local anaesthetic gel is applied to your urethra to numb it and help the cystoscope move along it more easily
  • the cystoscope is inserted into your urethra and gently moved down towards your bladder
  • water may be pumped into your bladder so your doctor or nurse can see inside it more clearly – you may be able to see images sent to a monitor by a camera in the cystoscope

The cystoscope is usually removed after a few minutes. A nurse will stay with you throughout to explain what's happening.

Does it hurt?

People often fear that a cystoscopy will be painful, but it doesn't usually hurt. Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel any pain during it.

It can be a bit uncomfortable and you may feel like you need to pee during the procedure, but this will only last a few minutes.

Afterwards

After the cystoscope is removed, you may need to go straight to the toilet to empty your bladder before changing back into your clothes.

Your doctor or nurse may be able discuss the results of the cystoscopy shortly afterwards. But if a small tissue sample was removed for testing (biopsy), you may not get the results for two or three weeks.

You can usually go home shortly after a flexible cystoscopy.

Read about recovering from a cystoscopy for more information.

Rigid cystoscopy

A rigid cystoscopy is where a cystoscope that doesn't bend is used. You're either put to sleep for the procedure or the lower half of your body is numbed while it's carried out.

Preparation

You'll be sent instructions to follow before your appointment. This will include advice about eating, drinking, and what to do about any medicines you're taking.

You'll usually need to stop eating and drinking for a few hours before a rigid cystoscopy. You'll also need to arrange for someone to give you a lift home, as you won't be able to drive for 24 hours.

You'll be asked to change into a hospital gown for the procedure.

You may be asked to pee into a container so it can be checked for an infection. The procedure may be delayed if a urine infection is found.

The procedure

For a rigid cystoscopy:

  • you lie down on a special couch with your legs in supports
  • your genitals are cleaned with an antiseptic and a sheet is placed over the surrounding area
  • you're given an injection of general anaesthetic (which makes you fall asleep) into your hand, or a spinal anaesthetic (which numbs the lower half of your body) into your lower back
  • the cystoscope is inserted into your urethra and gently moved down towards your bladder
  • water may be pumped into your bladder so your doctor or nurse can see inside it more clearly

The procedure can last up to 15-30 minutes.

Does it hurt?

You may have a short, sharp pain as the injection of anaesthetic is given, but you won't have any pain or discomfort during the procedure because you'll be asleep or your lower half will be numbed.

Afterwards

When the procedure is finished, you'll be taken to a room or ward to recover from the anaesthetic.

Sometimes you may have a thin tube called a catheter placed into your bladder to help you pee. This will be taken out before you go home.

Your doctor or nurse may be able to discuss the results of the cystoscopy shortly afterwards. But if a small tissue sample was removed for testing (biopsy), you may not get the results for two or three weeks.

You can usually go home once the anaesthetic has worn off and you're able to empty your bladder.

Read about recovering from a cystoscopy for more information.

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