Cystoscopy is a procedure used to examine the inside of the bladder with direct visualisation. It is performed using a piece of telescopic equipment called a cystoscope.
A cystoscope is a thin, fibre-optic tube with a light source and camera at one end. The cystoscope is inserted into the urethra and is moved up into the bladder. The urethra is the tube that runs from the bladder to the outside, carrying the urine. The camera at the end of the cystoscope relays images to a screen, where they can be seen by the surgeon.
A cystoscope can be used to:
- check for any abnormality in the bladder, such as a kidney stone
- remove a sample of bladder tissue for further testing (a biopsy) in the case of a suspected problem
- treat certain bladder conditions, such as an overactive bladder
There are two main types of cystoscope:
- a flexible cystoscope: a thin, flexible tube about the size of a drinking straw
- a rigid cystoscope: a thin, straight metal tube about the size of a pen
A flexible cystoscope is usually used together with a local anaesthetic gel or spray to numb the urethra.
A rigid cystoscope is usually used under a general anaesthetic or a spinal anaesthetic (epidural) that numbs all feeling below the spine.