What Is a Cystoscopy?

A cystoscopy is a procedure that uses a cystoscope (a small device with a camera on the end) to see what is happening inside your urinary system and identify any problems you may be having. Your urinary system excretes waste from your body after the kidneys filter your blood and remote toxins. This system includes your:

  • kidneys,
  • bladder,
  • ureter (small tubes that connect your kidneys to the bladder), and
  • urethra (a small tube that carries urine from your bladder to the penis or vagina).

If your urologist believes there is a problem in your ureters or kidneys, they may use a smaller device called a ureteroscopy or a CT scan with contrast to look at that part of your urinary system. 

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

Our specialists in urology, women’s health, and men’s health collaborate to offer exceptional care for men and women who are experiencing problems with their kidneys, bladder, and urethra. Our urologists and urogynecology specialists provide cystoscopy procedures to diagnose and treat bladder conditions.

What Needs a Cystoscopy?

A routine lab test may find microscopic amounts of blood in your urine. This is the most common reason for you to get a cystoscopy. A urologist will use a cystoscope to look at your kidneys, bladder, and urethra to identify the cause of blood in your urine. Cystoscopy can also be used to place a stent or remove a stent that was placed during surgery, such as a kidney transplant or kidney stones procedure.

What Does a Cystoscopy Show?

Your urologist will use cystoscopy to look for causes or signs of:

  • infection,
  • inflammation,
  • painful urination,
  • frequent urination or decreased urinary flow,
  • frequent urinary tract infections (UTI),
  • bladder stones,
  • bladder cancer, or
  • enlarged prostate.

Cystoscopy Preparation

Cystoscopy can be performed in the doctor’s office or in an operating room. The location depends on the reason for having the procedure. 

If you are having a cystoscopy done in the doctor’s office, you do not need to do anything to prepare for it. However, we may ask you to stop taking blood thinners (if you take any). This is only required if we perform another surgery and cystoscopy together to remove a bladder tumor.

If you are having the cystoscopy done under modified anesthetic care or full anesthesia (put to sleep), your surgeon will provide additional instructions to prepare for the procedure, including:

  • avoid drinking or eating after midnight before your procedure,
  • stop smoking at least 24 hours before the procedure, and
  • stop or adjust certain medications that could increase your bleeding risk.

Make sure you provide your surgeon with a list of all the medications, vitamins, and supplements you currently take.

Cystoscopy Procedure

In the Office

For simple cystoscopy procedures, your urologist will do it in an exam room during your visit. Before the procedure, you will go to the bathroom to empty your bladder. Then our staff will give you a gown to undress to the appropriate level. We will clean and prepare the area around your urethra (the end of the penis or vagina) so it is sterile for the procedure.

During the procedure, your urologist will:

  • use a local anesthetic (lidocaine jelly) to numb the area where the procedure will be done and wait a few minutes for the numbing gel to take effect.
  • insert a small, flexible cystoscope into your urethra.
  • fill your bladder with sterile water to easily see the inside of your bladder, which may make you feel the urge to urinate.
  • look at a monitor that shows images from the camera as they examine your urethra and bladder.

After the procedure, you will be able to empty your bladder again. You will be able to drive yourself home after. Most people do not need to stay in the hospital after a cystoscopy. We may give you an antibiotic to prevent infection.

Most people do not experience pain during a cystoscopy, but they may feel some discomfort, especially men with enlarged prostates. The most common is a pinching sensation when the cystoscope goes through the urinary sphincter (the muscles between your bladder and urethra that help you hold urine in).

In the Operating Room

Your urologist may decide to do a cystoscopy in the operating room under anesthesia if: 

  • it will be done at the same time as another surgical procedure.
  • you are anxious about being awake during the procedure.
  • you have a history of sexual trauma.
  • they need to use a more rigid cystoscope that would be uncomfortable without being under anesthesia.

You may need to stay in the hospital for one or more nights, depending on what other procedure you have. If you are only getting a cystoscopy, you will go home the same day. You cannot drive after being under anesthesia, so you will need someone to take you home. 

How Long Does a Cystoscopy Take?

Most cystoscopies only take between five and 10 minutes. However, if you are having another procedure or surgery done at the same time as the cystoscopy, your total procedure may take longer.

Find a Cystoscopy Specialist

Cystoscopy Recovery

You may experience some of the following side effects after your cystoscopy: 

  • a burning sensation when you urinate,
  • an urgent or frequent need to urinate, and
  • small amounts of blood in your urine.

Any symptoms usually last for one or two days after the procedure. Drink plenty of fluids to flush out your bladder. You will be able to resume normal activities the next day.

Cystoscopy Complications

Complications after a cystoscopy are rare. Some signs to look for include:

  • inability to urinate or empty your bladder for more than six hours after the procedure;
  • urinary tract infection (UTI);
  • burning when you urinate that lasts more than two days;
  • blood in your urine more than two days after the procedure;
  • a high volume of blood in the urine; or
  • other signs of infection, such as fever over 100.5 degrees, chills, or redness and irritation at the spot where the cystoscope was inserted.

Although rare, you may have a urethral stricture (narrowing of the urethra) after a cystoscopy. If the scope damages the urethra lining, you would need another procedure to fix this.

Cystoscopy Results

Your urologist will discuss the results of your cystoscopy with you after the procedure. If you have a cystoscopy done in the doctor’s office, you may be able to discuss the results immediately after the procedure is finished, or you may have to schedule another appointment to follow up. Your urologist may recommend getting additional imaging tests, including an ultrasound or a CT scan, to get a better idea of what is happening.

If your urologist finds evidence of a tumor or other growth in your bladder, they will discuss the next steps with you to find out if the tumor is benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous), and what can be done to remove it. You may need to have another surgery to remove the tumor.

If your urologist does not find anything of concern or you have a negative result for blood in your urine (hematuria), the urologist will recommend that you follow up with your primary care provider (PCP) to discuss the results and any additional steps you should take. Other conditions or results from a cystoscopy may require additional follow-up with your urologist.

Schedule an Appointment

If you are experiencing unusual symptoms in your urinary system or you have blood in your urine, schedule an appointment to talk to one of our urologists or urogynecologists today. Call 801-213-2700 or request an appointment online.

You do not need a physician referral to schedule an appointment. However, some insurance plans require that you get a referral from your primary care provider to see a specialist. Contact your insurance carrier if you have questions about the referral process.