A cystoscopy usually involves a flexible instrument known as a cystoscope (a thin tube with a camera and light at the end) that is inserted into the urethra (the hole where the urine is eliminated from the body) to examine the inside of the bladder.

Key points

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What is a Cystoscopy?

A cystoscopy is an essential medical procedure that allows doctors to examine the interior surfaces of the bladder and urethra. This is facilitated by the use of a cystoscope—a slender instrument fitted with a camera and a light. The device is carefully inserted into the urethra and guided into the bladder, transmitting images back to a screen for a real-time view. This process is invaluable for diagnosing, monitoring, and sometimes treating conditions affecting the urinary tract.

What is a Cystoscopy used to diagnose?

A cystoscopy is used to diagnose the following in the water pipe (urethra) and bladder:

Who is Cystoscopy suitable for?

Cystoscopy is recommended for individuals presenting symptoms that suggest urinary tract issues. These symptoms can include persistent urinary tract infections, painful urination, frequent urges to urinate, blood in the urine, or unexplained pelvic pain. Additionally, individuals with a history of bladder stones or tumours may undergo regular cystoscopies to monitor their condition or the effectiveness of previous treatments.

Types of Cystoscopy

There are 2 types of cystoscopy:

Flexible Cystoscopy

This is done under local anaesthesia in an outpatient treatment room.  The camera that is inserted is flexible, meaning it is less invasive than a rigid cystoscopy, allowing it to be performed in an outpatient setting.  Flexible cystoscopy is entirely diagnostic and can only be used to confirm a suspected diagnosis.

Rigid Cystoscopy

This is performed under general/regional anaesthesia or sedation. It is done in a theatre setting as a day case. The cystoscope is rigid, not flexible. The benefits of rigid cystoscopy are that it can be used for treatment, e.g., removal of small tumours and stones, taking a sample for biopsy, or injecting substances such as botulinum toxin into the bladder wall.

Is Cystoscopy a major operation?

Cystoscopy is generally not considered a major operation. It is frequently performed on an outpatient basis, especially the flexible type, which is less invasive and does not typically require sedation.

A rigid cystoscopy might necessitate a brief hospital stay because it often involves more complex manipulations or treatments that require anaesthesia. However, both procedures are relatively quick and involve minimal recovery time compared to more invasive surgeries.

How does Cystoscopy work?

How long does a Cystoscopy operation last?

What to expect after a Cystoscopy operation

Recovery from a cystoscopy is typically straightforward:

Side effects of Cystoscopy

The most common side effects include:

Rare complications might include more significant bleeding, injury to the urethra or bladder, or, very rarely, more severe infections.

Alternative treatments to Cystoscopy

For some conditions, non-invasive imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scans, or MRI can be alternatives to cystoscopy. These methods can help visualise the urinary tract without the insertion of a scope. However, they may not provide as detailed a view as a cystoscopy, which allows for direct visualisation and the ability to perform interventions if needed.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Cystoscopy painful?

While a flexible cystoscopy can be uncomfortable, it is generally not painful due to the numbing jelly used. The procedure is quick, typically lasting only about five minutes. For a rigid cystoscopy, which requires anaesthesia, patients do not feel pain during the procedure itself. Post-procedure discomfort may occur but is generally manageable.

How much does a private Cystoscopy cost?

At Urocare London, the total cost for a private cystoscopy is approximately £1,800. This fee includes all associated hospital and consultant fees. Please note that additional costs may apply if further treatments or interventions are performed during a rigid cystoscopy.

What should I do to prepare for a cystoscopy?

Preparation for a cystoscopy is relatively simple. You may be advised to temporarily stop certain medications, especially those that affect blood clotting, such as aspirin or other blood thinners. It’s important to discuss your current medications with your doctor during the pre-procedure consultation. Additionally, you might need to provide a urine sample before the procedure to check for infections.

How soon will I know the results of my cystoscopy?

In most cases, some initial results from a cystoscopy are available immediately as the procedure allows for real-time visual examination of the bladder and urethra. If a biopsy or tissue removal is conducted during the procedure, those samples will be sent to a laboratory for analysis. The results from these tests may take a few days to a week, and your consultant will schedule a follow-up appointment to discuss the findings.

Can I drive home after undergoing a cystoscopy?

For a flexible cystoscopy performed under local anaesthesia, most patients are typically able to drive themselves home after the procedure. However, if you undergo a rigid cystoscopy involving sedation or general anaesthesia, you will need someone to drive you home, as it can take several hours for the full effects of anaesthesia to wear off.

What are the signs of complications after a cystoscopy?

While complications from cystoscopies are rare, it is important to watch for signs of potential issues. Contact your doctor if you experience excessive or prolonged bleeding, difficulty urinating, severe or increasing pain, or signs of infection such as fever, chills, or persistent burning sensations during urination. These symptoms could indicate a need for immediate medical attention.

How often should I have a cystoscopy if I have recurring bladder issues?

The frequency of cystoscopy exams depends on the specific condition being monitored and its severity. Patients with recurrent bladder tumours, for example, may require surveillance cystoscopies every 3 to 6 months. For other conditions, such as chronic urinary tract infections or bladder stones, the frequency will vary based on clinical judgment and patient history.

Are there any restrictions on my activities after a cystoscopy?

After a flexible cystoscopy, most patients can resume normal activities immediately. However, after a rigid cystoscopy, particularly if it involves more invasive treatment, you may need to avoid strenuous activities, heavy lifting, and sexual activity for a short period, as recommended by your doctor. Your healthcare team will provide specific guidelines based on your procedure and health needs.