Front view cross section of bladder showing cystoscope inserted through ureter.

Cystoscopy is a procedure that lets your doctor look directly inside your urethra and bladder. It can be used to:

  • Help diagnose a problem with your urethra, bladder, or kidneys.

  • Take a sample (biopsy) of bladder or urethral tissue.

  • Treat certain problems (such as removing kidney stones).

  • Place a stent to bypass an obstruction.

  • Take special X-rays of the kidneys.

Based on the findings, your doctor may recommend other tests or treatments.

What is a cystoscope?

A cystoscope is a telescope-like instrument that contains lenses and fiberoptics (small glass wires that make bright light). The cystoscope may be straight and rigid, or flexible to bend around curves in the urethra. The doctor may look directly into the cystoscope, or project the image onto a monitor.

Getting ready

  • Ask your doctor if you should stop taking any medicines before the procedure.

  • Ask whether you should avoid eating or drinking anything after midnight before the procedure.

  • Follow any other instructions your doctor gives you.

Tell your doctor before the exam if you:

  • Take any medicines, such as aspirin or blood thinners

  • Have allergies to any medicines

  • Are pregnant

The procedure

Cystoscopy is done in the doctor’s office, surgery center, or hospital. The doctor and a nurse are present during the procedure. It takes only a few minutes, longer if a biopsy, X-ray, or treatment needs to be done.

During the procedure:

  • You lie on an exam table on your back, knees bent and legs apart. You are covered with a drape.

  • Your urethra and the area around it are washed. Anesthetic jelly may be applied to numb the urethra. Other pain medicine is usually not needed. In some cases, you may be offered a mild sedative to help you relax. If a more extensive procedure is to be done, such as a biopsy or kidney stone removal, general anesthesia may be needed.

  • The cystoscope is inserted. A sterile fluid is put into the bladder to expand it. You may feel pressure from this fluid.

  • When the procedure is done, the cystoscope is removed.

After the procedure

If you had a sedative, general anesthesia, or spinal anesthesia, you must have someone drive you home. Once you’re home:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

  • You may have burning or light bleeding when you urinate—this is normal.

  • Medicines may be prescribed to ease any discomfort or prevent infection. Take these as directed.

  • Call your doctor if you have heavy bleeding or blood clots, burning that lasts more than a day, a fever over 100°F  (38° C), or trouble urinating.

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