The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide
Diagnostic Tests - Cystoscopy
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What happens when the test is performed?

  • You wear a hospital gown for the test and lie on your back on a table with your knees bent and your feet in footrests. The opening to your urethra (at the end of the penis or the outside of the vagina) and the skin around it is cleaned with soap. Most patients then have a squirt or two of a jelly-like numbing medicine pushed inside the opening of the urethra with a plastic syringe. This makes it possible to insert the camera without causing discomfort.

    A tubular instrument called a cystoscope, which is about the width of a pencil, is pushed inside the urethra and moved forward until its end is inside the bladder. Clear fluid (saltwater) is pumped through this tube into your bladder to expand it, so that your doctor can see the inside of the bladder clearly. You may feel some fullness from this fluid and experience the urge to urinate. There is a small light and a very small camera on the end of the cystoscope, which enable your doctor to view the inside of your bladder on a TV screen. The end of the scope can be moved in different directions with remote control, to show all parts of the bladder.

    The test takes about five minutes from the time that the camera is inserted. Then the camera is pulled out and you are free to use the bathroom.

    If you are going to have a biopsy done during this test, you might require some additional anesthesia. Your doctor will discuss your need for a biopsy with you before the test.

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