About the procedure
A cystoscopy usually only takes about five minutes to perform, but you will need to allow about 45 minutes for your appointment. The procedure will not hurt, although it may be a bit uncomfortable.
Preparing for the procedure
There are no special preparations for having a cystoscopy. You may eat and drink as usual on the day of the procedure.
What are the risks?
Cystoscopy is generally a safe procedure. For most people, the benefits of having a clear diagnosis, or quick and effective treatment, are much greater than any disadvantages. However, like all invasive medical procedures, there are some risks. These can be divided into the risk of side-effects and the risk of complications.
These are the unwanted, but usually mild and temporary, effects of a successful procedure. After a cystoscopy, you may feel a small amount of discomfort, which will settle in a few hours. Passing urine afterwards may sting and it is quite normal for the urine to contain some blood (especially if a biopsy is taken) but these symptoms should settle down within 48 hours.
Possible complications of cystoscopy
Your doctor will be very experienced at performing this type of procedure, but, even so, a few cystoscopies are not successfully completed and may need to be repeated.
Other complications are uncommon, but occasionally a urinary tract infection or inflammation may develop, requiring treatment with medicines.
It is also possible for the urethra or bladder to be damaged or perforated during the procedure. This can lead to bleeding and infection, which may require treatment with medicines or surgery. The chance of complications depends on the exact type of procedure you are having and other factors such as your general health. You should ask your consultant to explain how these risks apply to you.
What to expect
You will be asked to empty your bladder just before you have your cystoscopy. When anaesthetic jelly is used, it will be squeezed into the urethra using a syringe without a needle. This may sting at first and will then take effect in two to three minutes. The cystoscope will then be carefully passed into your urethra.
Men may be asked to try and pass urine while the cystoscope is being inserted. This is simply to help relax the muscles - no urine will actually be passed.
Once the end of the cystoscope is in the bladder, salt water will be passed through it to fill the bladder up and make the whole of the lining visible. A tiny light and lens enable the doctor to see if any disease is present.
If necessary, the doctor will take a biopsy of the bladder lining for analysis, using specialist instruments that can be passed inside the cystoscope. This procedure is quick and painless.
After the examination, the cystoscope is removed quickly and easily.
After the cystoscopy
As your bladder will be full, you will probably wish to pass urine again.
If you have a sedative, the effects may last longer than you expect, so you should not drive, operate machinery or drink alcohol for 24 hours after your examination. This means that you will have to arrange for someone to take you home.
Once home, its sensible to take it easy for the rest of the day. Most patients feel able to resume normal activities on the following day.
Drinking plenty of water can help reduce the mild stinging that is normal on passing urine for a day or two after this procedure. It can also prevent the development of infection or inflammation. If you develop a high temperature, pain, persistent burning or bleeding, please contact your doctor promptly.