A cystoscopy is a procedure that involves inserting a tool into the urethra and up into the bladder to examine these organs. The tool is a cystoscope — a thin, flexible instrument with a light and a camera on its tip.
A cystoscopy is a quick procedure that usually takes place in an outpatient environment, such as a doctor’s office. In some circumstances, a doctor performs it during a hospital stay.
In the past, all cystoscopes were rigid metal devices, but technical advances have lead to the development of flexible, softer scopes that cause less discomfort for the person, who is awake during the procedure.
Below, learn what happens at different stages of a cystoscopy.
Before the procedure
Before a cystoscopy, the person empties their bladder.
Then, they undress, put on a medical gown, and lie on an examination table. Their knees should be bent and spread apart, and their feet should rest flat on the table.
In some cases, the doctor sets up an intravenous (IV) line to provide antibiotics and a mild sedative prior to the procedure.
In most cystoscopies that take place in a urologist’s office, the person only receives a local anesthetic.
Your surgeon will advise you regarding which procedure is best for your condition and how long you are required to stay in the hospital, depending on your diagnosis, age, medical history, overall health, and personal preference.
During the procedure
The doctor applies an anesthetic gel around the urethra to reduce discomfort. They then gently insert a cystoscope into the urethra.
Next, the doctor may fill the bladder with a saline solution. This helps make the walls of the bladder more visible. As the bladder fills, the person usually experiences and urge to urinate, possibly with some discomfort.
Using the camera on the cystoscope, the doctor will visually examine the bladder, and they may take a urine sample or a small tissue.
After the examination, the doctor will gently remove the cystoscope and any IV line.
A person who is due to have a cystoscopy will have an initial consultation with their doctor. During this, a person can raise any questions or concerns about the procedure.
They should also let the doctor know about:
any medications that they are currently taking, especially blood thinners, anticoagulants, and immunosuppressive drugs
any allergies or sensitivities to latex or other materials
any bleeding disorders
whether they are or may be pregnant
whether they have or may have a UTI, in which case the doctor would need to postpone the procedure
If a person is due to receive a sedative, they should plan for someone to drive them to and from the cystoscopy appointment.
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Depending on the type of sedative that the doctor plans to use for the procedure, they may ask the person to fast beforehand.
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