If someone described a cystoscope to you, you’d probably think they were talking about the selfie stick cameras kids are walking around with these days. After all, it is a thin, long tube with a camera on the end. However, this device doesn’t exactly take selfies of you and your friends. In fact, it takes pictures of your bladder and urethra during a cystoscopy. Keep reading to learn why in the world you’d need this and how exactly it’s done.
What Is Cystoscopy?
A cystoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to take a peek inside of your bladder and urethra. There are two types of cystoscopy; a rigid cystoscopy and a flexible cystoscopy. The type performed on you depends on what your urologist needs to do.
If they’re just looking inside your bladder, you’ll likely have a flexible cystoscopy performed. Your urologist will choose a rigid cystoscopy if you need treatment for a bladder problem. Both men and women can have either type of procedure.
Why Would I Need A Cystoscopy Performed?
There are several reasons why a urologist would suggest that you have a cystoscopy. In short, they’re looking to either find a problem or treat the problem they already found with this procedure.
Finding the Cause of ______
In many cases, they’re looking to find the cause of urinary tract issues like:
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent urination (8+ times a day)
- Urge incontinence
- Urinary retention
- Urinary incontinence
- Pain or burning
- Trouble starting urination
- Difficulty completing urination
- Abnormal cells found in a urine sample
Treating A Condition By ________
A urologist can also treat certain problems in your bladder by performing the following during a cystoscopy:
- Removing a kidney or bladder stone
- Taking out polyps and/or tumors
- Injecting material into the urethral wall to treat urinary leakage
- Inserting medication into the bladder
- Performing retrograde pyelography (i.e. X-Ray)
- Removing a stent placed during a previous procedure
Performing a Cystoscopy
Without a doubt, cystoscopies come in handy. However, you’re probably wondering what you’ll have to go through to receive its benefits? Well, it depends on which cystoscopy you get because there are some slight differences.
The Flexible Cystoscopy
During a flexible cystoscopy, your urologist will use a thin and bendy cystoscope to navigate through your urethra. Patients are typically awake during this procedure and it only takes a few minutes.
Your urologist will insert the cystoscope inside of your urethra and move towards your bladder. Once there, water will flow through the cystoscope and into the bladder. This allows the bladder to stretch so your urologist has a better view of the bladder wall. They’ll take images that you’ll probably see on the monitor and a nurse will be there to comfort you.
The Rigid Cystoscopy
For a rigid cystoscopy, your urologist will use a slightly wider cystoscope that doesn’t bend. Patients are either put to sleep or have the lower half of their body numbed with a general or spinal anesthetic.
They’ll guide the cystoscope through the urethra and towards the bladder just like during the flexible cystoscopy. Water flows into the bladder through the cystoscope and your urologist will take images. This procedure usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes.
Preparing For Your Cystoscopy
Your urologist will discuss with you how to best prepare for your procedure. If you’re having an outpatient procedure, like the flexible cystoscopy, you will be able to eat and drink normally before the test. If you’re having general anesthesia, they’ll recommend that you stop eating and drinking 6-8 hours before your cystoscopy.
Your doctor will likely ask if you have any additional questions or concerns before the procedure. If you regularly take medications, you’ll want to ask your doctor if you should before surgery. Also, it’s not uncommon to sign a consent form before your cystoscopy. There is a small risk of injury involved, as with any medical procedure.
What Are The Risks?
Fortunately, the risk of complications with these procedures is extremely low. However, you may develop a UTI, unexpected bleeding, or suffer an injury to the bladder or urethra. There are also risks associated with getting general anesthesia. Be sure to talk with your doctor about that.
What To Expect After Your Cystoscopy
After your cystoscopy, it’s normal to notice a temporary burning sensation when you pee. You might also see small amounts of blood in your urine. If you’re having this procedure done because of incontinence issues, we suggest having a bladder leak pad handy for afterwards. A cystoscopy may irritate your bladder and cause more frequent urination for a day or two. If you’re not too keen on picking up pads at your local grocery store, try looking for a service that will ship them to you instead (like Lily Bird).
We also recommend drinking plenty of water to reduce the risk of developing a UTI. Most patients can go home following the surgery once the anesthesia has worn off. You should be able to return to your everyday activities 24 hours after the procedure. Contact your doctor if you notice any extreme bleeding or discomfort.
And There You Have It
A cystoscopy is a common procedure for people experiencing issues with their bladder. We hope this overview was able to give you some insight into why it might be necessary or helpful to you.
By Jessica Thomas, MPH