Cystoscopy or Bladder Scope Test

Medically Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on September 09, 2023
3 min read

A cystoscopy is a test to check the health of your urethra and bladder. You might also hear it called a cystourethroscopy or, more simply, a bladder scope.

It’s an outpatient test, which means you can get it at your doctor’s office, a hospital, or clinic and go home the same day. The doctor inserts a tube into your urethra. If you’re a man, the opening is at the end of your penis. If you’re a woman, it’s just above your vagina. The test lets your doctor check the complete length of your urethra and the bladder for polyps, narrow areas called strictures, abnormal growths, and other problems.

This test can help your doctor:

Cystoscopes are tube-shaped tools. They have lights and cameras that let your doctor examine the interior of your urinary tract. There are two types of cystoscopes: a standard rigid cystoscope and a flexible cystoscope. The choice of which scope to use depends on the purpose of the exam.

The procedure generally takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

  • You’ll need to pee first. The test is done with an empty bladder.
  • You’ll lie down. The position depends on the type of scope your doctor uses:
    • Standard rigid cystoscope. You’ll lie on your back with your knees up and apart. Your feet will probably be in stirrups.
    • Flexible cystoscope. No special position is needed. The doctor will help you find a comfortable position.
  • You’ll get medicine. You might get a drug to make you sleepy. The doctor will call this a sedative. Or you could get a general anesthetic to help you sleep through the entire procedure.
  • Your doctor inserts the scope. They’ll clean your urethra and numb the area. The scope goes through the urethra and into your bladder. They’ll use the smallest scope possible. They might need to use a bigger one to take samples or bring surgical tools into your bladder.
  • The doctor examines your urethra and bladder. The cystoscope has a lens on the end that works like a telescope. It makes it easier for the doctor to see inside your body. They might put a video camera over the lens to project images onto a screen.
  • The doctor fills your bladder. They put water or saline in through the cystoscope. When your bladder is full of water, it stretches. This lets the doctor see your entire bladder wall. They’ll ask you how it feels when it’s full.
  • The doctor takes tissue samples. If an area looks abnormal, the doctor will use the cystoscope to cut a small piece that they can send to the lab for analysis. They’ll call this a biopsy or tissue sample.

You may feel discomfort when the cystoscope goes into the urethra and bladder. You’ll probably feel a strong need to pee when your bladder gets full. You may feel a slight pinch if the doctor takes a biopsy.

After the procedure, your urethra may be sore and it might burn when you pee for a day or two.

Complications of cystoscopy are rare but can happen. The risks of having a cystoscopy include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding from biopsy area -- it will show up in your pee
  • Bladder wall rupture
  • Hyponatremia -- a change to the natural balance of sodium in your body

Contact your doctor if you notice any of the following after the cystoscopy:

  • Severe pain where the scope went in
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Peeing less than usual