What is a flexible cystoscopy?
A flexible cystoscopy is a diagnostic procedure that is used to look at the bladder and urethra (the tube that urine passes through from the bladder before leaving the body).
A flexible cystoscopy involves inserting a special tube, known as a cystoscope, into the urethra and passing it through to the bladder. The cystoscope is a flexible fibre-optic tube that can move around in the urinary system. It has a tiny video camera on one end, so your urologist can view an image of your urinary system on a screen.
The advantage of a flexible cystoscopy is that it can be done using a local anaesthetic gel, rather than a general or spinal anaesthetic which would be required for a rigid cystoscopy. This means your recovery time is much quicker and you can return home to continue your usual activities on the same day.
Flexible cystoscopies are generally used to help make a diagnosis, but they also enable your urologist to take a biopsy or urine sample during the same examination, if required.
Why would I need a flexible cystoscopy?
A flexible cystoscopy can help us diagnose the causes of your urinary symptoms. In some cases, the urinary symptoms may be clear after an X-ray, blood test or urine test, but often the only way your doctor can be sure what is going on is to look inside the bladder.
A flexible cystoscopy can help to diagnose the causes of symptoms such as:
- Blood in your urine (haematuria)
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Difficulty or pain when urinating (passing urine)
- Incontinence (inability to control when you urinate)
Your urologist can also use a cystoscope to carry out treatments and monitor how successful previous treatments have been. A cystoscopy can be used to help remove bladder stones, deliver medication to the urinary system, and insert or remove stents.
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If you’re worried about symptoms or would like a second opinion, enquire now for more information and to book an appointment.
What happens during the procedure?
Before we carry out your flexible cystoscopy procedure, we’ll ask you to sign a consent form. This simply states that you agree to have the procedure and you understand what it involves. We want to involve you in all decisions about your care and treatment, and you can always talk to a member of your care team if you’d like a little more information about our consent process.
On the day of your cystoscopy, you’ll have a short consultation with your urologist before the procedure to discuss your medical history and what will happen. Your urologist may also give you an antibiotic during the appointment to reduce the likelihood of you developing an infection after the cystoscopy.
At the start of the flexible cystoscopy procedure, you’ll be asked to lie on your back and the opening of your urethra and the surrounding area will be cleaned. An anaesthetic gel will also be applied to your urethra.
When you’re ready, your urologist will pass the cystoscope through your urethra and examine your urinary system. They’ll also insert sterile water into your bladder to help visualise your bladder lining. This might make your bladder feel full or cause a feeling of needing urinate.
When your urologist has finished the examination, they’ll gently remove the cystoscope.
You may be able to get your cystoscopy results straight after the procedure, but in some cases, it can take up to 72 hours.
How long does it take to do a flexible cystoscopy?
You can expect the procedure to last around five minutes, but it may take a little longer if your urologist is taking some biopsies or urine samples.
Is a flexible cystoscopy painful?
Your doctor will apply an anaesthetic gel into your urethra to help reduce any discomfort during the procedure. You may find it a little uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn’t cause you any pain.
Will I need a follow-up appointment?
If you need a follow-up appointment, we’ll arrange this with you before you go home.
What do I need to do after I go home?
You can return to your usual activities on the same day as the procedure and you’ll be able to take a bath or shower, as well as eat and drink as normal. You should drink plenty of water (at least two litres per day) to flush out any infection and clear up any bleeding.
Will I need any dressings?
We’ll give you a pad before you go home. You may want to wear it the day after your cystoscopy to protect your clothing from any small amount of bleeding you may have.
You may be prescribed some antibiotics to lower the risk of infection, but this is nothing to worry about. It’s important that you complete the whole course.
Are there any risks?
A cystoscopy is commonly carried out with no problems whatsoever. Your urologist will explain any potential complications of a cystoscopy and advise on how to manage problems before you go ahead with the procedure. You’ll also be given plenty of time to ask any questions.
Possible side effects include:
- Discomfort or stinging when you urinate
- Bleeding or blood in the urine (pink in appearance)
- Urinary infection
Rarely, you may experience:
- Difficulty in passing urine normally
- Delayed bleeding
- Injury to your urethra and scar formation
Should you experience any of these rare occurrences, we’ll be able to help alleviate the issues.
You should contact your GP if you:
- Are in extreme pain
- Have continuous or excessive bleeding
- Pass blood clots
- Have a high temperature of 38ºC or above
- Have difficulty passing urine
If you think it is an emergency, you should go straight to your nearest Emergency Department (A&E).
How much does a flexible cystoscopy cost?
We’re recognised by all major private medical insurers and also offer a range of self-payment options. A GP referral is not always necessary, and the cost of a flexible cystoscopy starts from £595. Find your nearest centre offering flexible cystoscopy to book an appointment.
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