What happens - Cystoscopy

There are 2 types of cystoscopy: flexible cystoscopy and rigid cystoscopy. They're both done in slightly different ways.

Both involve passing a thin viewing tube called a cystoscope along the urethra. This is the tube that carries pee from the bladder out of the body.

Men and women can have either type of cystoscopy. Ask your doctor or nurse which type you're going to have if you're not sure.

Flexible cystoscopy

A flexible cystoscopy is where a thin (about the width of a pencil) and bendy cystoscope is used. You stay awake while it's carried out.

Before your flexible cystoscopy

The hospital will send you instructions to follow before your appointment. This will include advice about eating, drinking, and what to do about any medicines you're taking.

You can usually eat and drink as normal before a flexible cystoscopy.

Before the procedure starts, you'll be asked to undress from the waist down and put on a hospital gown.

You may be asked to pee into a container so it can be checked for an infection. The procedure will be delayed if a urine infection is found.

During the procedure

For a flexible cystoscopy:

  1. you lie down flat on a special couch
  2. your genitals are cleaned with an antiseptic and a sheet is placed over the surrounding area
  3. local anaesthetic gel is applied to your urethra to numb it. This will help the cystoscope move along it more easily
  4. the cystoscope is inserted into your urethra. It is gently moved down towards your bladder
  5. water may be pumped into your bladder so your doctor or nurse can see inside it more clearly. You may be able to see images sent to a monitor by a camera in the cystoscope

The cystoscope is usually removed after a few minutes. A nurse will stay with you throughout to explain what's happening.

A cystoscopy may be a bit uncomfortable and you may feel like you need to pee during the procedure. This will only last a few minutes.

After your flexible cystoscopy

After the cystoscope is removed, you may need to go straight to the toilet to empty your bladder.

Your doctor or nurse may be able to discuss the results of the cystoscopy shortly afterwards. If a small tissue sample was removed (biopsy) for testing, you may not get the results for 2 or 3 weeks.

You can usually go home shortly after a flexible cystoscopy.

Rigid cystoscopy

A rigid cystoscopy is where a cystoscope that does not bend is used. You're either put to sleep for the procedure or the lower half of your body is numbed while it's carried out.

Before your rigid cystoscopy

You'll be sent instructions to follow before your appointment. These will include advice about eating, drinking, and what to do about any medicines you're taking.

You'll usually need to stop eating and drinking for a few hours before a rigid cystoscopy. You'll also need to arrange for someone to give you a lift home, as you will not be able to drive for 24 hours.

You'll be asked to change into a hospital gown for the procedure.

You may be asked to pee into a container so it can be checked for an infection. The procedure will be delayed if a urine infection is found.

During the procedure

For a rigid cystoscopy:

  1. you lie down on a special couch with your legs in supports
  2. your genitals are cleaned with an antiseptic and a sheet is placed over the surrounding area
  3. you're given an injection of general anaesthetic or a spinal anaesthetic. The general anaesthetic is given into your hand and will make you fall asleep. The spinal anaesthetic is given into your lower back and numbs the lower half of your body
  4. the cystoscope is inserted into your urethra. It is gently advanced towards your bladder
  5. water may be pumped into your bladder so your doctor or nurse can see inside it more clearly

Some procedures can last up to 15 to 30 minutes.

You may have a short, sharp pain as the injection of anaesthetic is given. You will not have any pain or discomfort during the procedure. This is because you'll be asleep or the lower half of your body will be numbed.

After your rigid cystoscopy

When the procedure is finished, you'll be taken to a room or ward to recover from the anaesthetic.

Sometimes you may have a thin tube called a catheter placed into your bladder to help you pee. This will be taken out before you go home.

Your doctor or nurse may be able to discuss the results of the cystoscopy shortly afterwards. If a small tissue sample was removed (biopsy) for testing, you may not get the results for 2 or 3 weeks.

You can usually go home once the anaesthetic has worn off and you're able to empty your bladder.


Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

Slaintecare logo
This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 22 March 2021
Next review due: 22 March 2024