A cystoscopy is an endoscopic procedure that allows your doctor to view the urethra and bladder through a cystoscope, which is an instrument similar to a small telescope. During this noninvasive procedure, the scope is inserted through your urethra and into your bladder. Your physician will display images from the camera on a screen where he or she can immediately view and analyze them.
Why is Cystoscopy Performed?
Your physician may order cystoscopy testing if you have bladder problems, such as a constant need to urinate or if urination is painful. Your physician may recommend a cystoscopy if he or she suspects a disorder of the urinary tract. Urinary tract disorders may include structural problems that can lead to blockage of urine flow or a backflow of urine. If left untreated, structural problems in the urinary tract may lead to potentially serious complications.
Cystoscopy can also assist in identifying problems, such as early signs of cancer, infections, strictures (narrowing) and bleeding. Your doctor can use cystoscopy procedures to diagnose, monitor, and treat conditions that affect the bladder and urethra. He or she may order a cystoscopy for the following reasons:
- Investigation: This procedure may help your doctor learn the causes of signs and symptoms such as blood in the urine, frequent urinary tract infections, incontinence, overactive bladder and painful urination.
- Diagnosis: A cystoscopy may be used in diagnosing bladder cancer, bladder stones and bladder inflammation.
- Treatment: Your physician can use special tools that he or she can pass through the cystoscope to treat a bladder disease or condition.
The procedure itself can take as little as five minutes, and there is usually minimal discomfort. Patients may receive sedation before a cystoscopy, although the procedure is usually performed under local or general anesthesia. The doctor will also numb the urethra with an anesthetic spray or gel.
Once the anesthetic takes effect, your doctor will insert a long, flexible tube called a cystoscope into the urethra—the tube that allows urine to pass outside the body. The doctor guides the cystoscope through the urethra and into the bladder. In addition to giving your doctor the best possible view of the internal urethra and bladder, this procedure enables him or her to irrigate, suction and access these structures using surgical instruments.
If the procedure is investigatory, your doctor will use a larger cystoscope. Biopsies or other surgical procedures require a slightly thicker scope so surgical instruments can pass through it. With a local anesthetic, your cystoscopy may take less than five minutes. If you are sedated or given general anesthesia, the entire procedure may take 10 to 30 minutes.
After your cystoscopy, you may be allowed to go back to normal activities immediately. However, if you've been given sedation or general anesthesia, you may be asked to remain in a recovery area to let the effects of the medication wear off. Cystoscopy is usually performed on an outpatient basis.
You may notice a mild burning feeling upon urination, and you may see small amounts of blood in the urine. These symptoms should not last more than 24 hours. To prevent infection, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic. It's important to drink lots of water and urinate when you need to following a cystoscopy. Holding urine could potentially cause blood in the bladder to clot and create a blockage. Drinking lots of water helps to ease any burning or bleeding.
Your doctor may have your results immediately, or it could take a few days. If you have had a biopsy, you'll have to wait for lab results.
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