A cystoscopy is an examination of the inside of the bladder and urethra, the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
In men, the urethra is the tube that runs through the penis. The doctor performing the examination uses a cystoscope, a long, thin instrument with an eyepiece on one end and a tiny lens and a light on the other end that is inserted into the bladder. The doctor inserts the cystoscope into the patient’s urethra and the small lens magnifies the inner lining of the urethra and bladder allowing the doctor to see inside the hollow bladder. Many cystoscopes have extra channels within the sheath to insert other small instruments that can be used to treat or diagnose urinary problems.
A doctor may perform a cystoscopy to find the cause of many urinary conditions, including:
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Blood in the urine, called hematuria
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate
- Unusual cells found in a urine sample
- Painful urination, chronic pelvic pain, or interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome
- Urinary blockage caused by prostate enlargement or some other abnormal narrowing of the urinary tract
- Stone in the urinary tract, such as a kidney stone
- Unusual growth, polyp, tumour, or cancer in the urinary tract
People scheduled for a cystoscopy should ask their doctor about any special instructions.
The doctor gently inserts the tip of the cystoscope into the urethra and slowly glides it up into the bladder. A sterile liquid salt water called saline flows through a channel in the scope to slowly fill the bladder and stretch it so the doctor has a better view of the bladder wall.
As the bladder is filled with liquid, patients feel some discomfort or pressure and the urge to urinate. The doctor may then release some of the fluid, or the patient may empty the bladder as soon as the examination is over.
Possible risks of a cystoscopy include:
- Rupture of the bladder wall