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Read our guide below about the cystoscopy procedure.

You can also download a PDF version of this patient information by following the link on the right.

What is a cystoscopy?

It’s a procedure using a thin telescope to look at the lining of the bladder. It can help to find the cause of:

  • recurrent urinary track infection
  • urinary incontinence
  • blood or abnormal cells in your urine.

A cystoscopy can also check your bladder and bladder wall for unusual growths, ulcers or stones.

What are the two types of cystoscopy?

Flexible cystoscopy

This involves a fibre-optic medical telescope which has a thin, flexible body and a tiny light. Your doctor passes it through your urethra, which is the tube that allows urine to pass from your bladder whilst urinating.

You’ll have a local anaesthetic using a gel. This means you’ll stay awake during the procedure.

Rigid cystoscopy

The doctor will pass a narrow, rigid telescope through your urethra into your bladder.  It’s usually done under general or spinal anaesthetic.

Preparing for cystoscopy

At the hospital, your nurse will check your heart rate and blood pressure. You’ll need to provide a urine sample for testing.

We’ll ask you to put on  hospital gown in private. We’ll then take swabs from your nose and throat to make sure that you’re not carrying MRSA.

You’ll also see your surgeon and anaesthetist. They’ll ask you to sign a consent form giving permission for your operation to take place, so that you understand what will happen and any risks associated with the procedure.

Make sure that you ask any questions before signing the form and confirming that you’re happy to go ahead.

If you’re having a general anaesthetic, we’ll ask you to follow fasting instructions. This means not eating or drinking for at least 6 hours before the procedure.

What happens during cystoscopy?

It may take anything from a few minutes to 20 minutes, depending on what your doctor needs to do.

Flexible cystoscopy

Your nurse will take you to the operating theatre and help you to lie on your back with your knees raised and apart.  The doctor carrying out the procedure will clean your genital area with a mild antiseptic solution and cover you with a sterile paper sheet.

A local anaesthetic gel will numb and lubricate the urethra.  The doctor will insert the tip of the flexible cystoscope into your bladder via the urethra.

They’ll run sterile water through the cystoscope to fill the bladder and give a clearer picture.  The examination will only take a few minutes and you may notice slight discomfort, or an urge to urinate.

If necessary, your doctor will take a biopsy (sample of body tissue) using special instruments passed through the cystoscope.  Your nurse will remain with you during the procedure to support and talk to you if you want.

Rigid cystoscopy

You’ll have a general anaesthetic and will be asleep during the procedure. Your doctor will carry out the same process as above and, if necessary, take a biopsy.

What to expect afterwards

You may feel the need to pass urine or have slight discomfort / stinging while passing urine, or blood in the urine after the procedure. This is normal and you’ll have medication to help ease your symptoms.

The doctor will explain the results and will talk to you about any further treatment and follow up.  You’ll usually be able to go home when you feel ready.

If you had a general anaesthetic, you may need to rest until the effects have passed. You must arrange for someone to drive you home.

If the doctor takes a biopsy, your results may be ready a few days later but it can take up to 3 weeks.  Results are usually sent to the doctor who carried out the cystoscopy or the doctor who referred you for the procedure.

Recovering from cystoscopy

When you get home, take it easy for the rest of the day. Try to have extra drinks for 24 to 48 hours as this will help to reduce the risk of urinary tract infection.

Most people have no problems after a cystoscopy. Contact your GP or  if you develop:

  • a persistent or severe pain and you are not able to pass urine
  • a fever
  • an unpleasant smell to your urine
  • blood or blood clots in your urine.

The anaesthetic may make some patients clumsy, slow and forgetful for about 24 hours.  You’ll also feel tired and ‘run down’ for a couple of days.

You should avoid any strenuous exercise or heavy lifting.

You may bathe or shower as normal and have sex again when you feel ready.  You can drive after 48 hours as long as you can do an emergency stop comfortably.

Ask your doctor or your nurse for advice on returning to work.

How can I help reduce healthcare associated infections?

Infection prevention and control is important to the wellbeing of our patients so we have procedures in place. Keeping your hands clean is an effective way of preventing the spread of infections.

You, and anyone visiting you, must use the hand sanitiser available at the entrance to every ward before coming in and after you leave. You may need to wash your hands at the sink using soap and water. Hand sanitisers are not suitable for dealing with patients who have symptoms of diarrhoea.

More help or advice

Contact our patient advice and liaison service (PALS) on 01296 831120 or

About our patient information

We aim to make the information as up to date and accurate as possible, but please note that it’s subject to change. You must always check specific advice on any concerns you may have with your doctor.

Contact us

Stoke Mandeville Hospital
Wycombe Hospital
Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Consultant Gynaecologists

01296 316239/316548

Ward 16B

01296 418110/418111

Cystoscopy Suite

01296 316293

Wycombe Hospital

Consultant Gynaecologists

01494 425009/425724