A cystoscopy is a medical procedure used to examine the inside of the bladder using an instrument called a cystoscope.

A cystoscope is a thin, fibre-optic tube that has a light and a camera at one end. It is inserted into the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) and moved up into the bladder.

The camera relays images to a screen where they can be seen by the urologist (specialist in treating bladder conditions).

There are two types of cystoscope:

  • flexible cystoscope – a thin, flexible tube used when the only purpose of a cystoscopy is to look inside your bladder
  • rigid cystoscope – a thin, straight metal tube used for passing small surgical instruments down through the cystoscope to remove a tissue sample or carry out treatment

Most cystoscopies are performed as outpatient procedures, so you'll be able to go home on the same day.

Read more about what happens during a cystoscopy

Why it is used

A cystoscopy can be used to investigate and treat symptoms and conditions that affect the bladder and urinary system. For example, it can be used to:

  • check for abnormalities in the bladder
  • remove a sample of bladder tissue for further testing (a biopsy) in cases of suspected cancer
  • treat certain bladder conditions, such as removing small bladder stones

Read more about why a cystoscopy might be used.

Is a cystoscopy painful?

You shouldn't feel any serious pain as a flexible cystoscopy is usually carried out using a local anaesthetic gel or spray to numb the urethra. A rigid cystoscopy is usually done under general anaesthetic (where you are asleep), or a spinal anaesthetic (epidural) that numbs all feeling below your spine.

However, for some people the procedure may feel uncomfortable and you may have mild side effects afterwards, such as muscle pain and nausea.

For a few days after the procedure, you may feel a burning sensation when passing urine and you may pass blood in your urine. This is normal and not something to worry about unless it is severe and lasts longer than a few days.

Read more about recovering from a cystoscopy.


It's rare to experience serious complications after a cystoscopy, but some people experience persistent bleeding or problems passing urine.

There's also a small risk of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) that affects your urethra, bladder or kidneys. You should see your GP if you experience symptoms of infection such as a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above.

Read more about the possible complications of a cystoscopy.

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