Cystoscopy vs Ureteroscopy for Your Urinary Tract Symptoms

Two common procedures, cystoscopy and ureteroscopy, are used to diagnose and treat bladder, urethra, kidney, and ureter issues. In this article, we’ll explore the similarities and differences between the two methods to help make an informed decision about your medical needs when experiencing urinary tract difficulties.


A cystoscopy is a medical device with a long thin tube containing a light and lens for viewing. This tube is inserted into the urethra and bladder to see any anomalies. 

Rigid and flexible cystoscopes are available depending on the issue you are having. Flexible cystoscopes are generally used to spot troublesome areas. A rigid cystoscope is slightly wider and can accommodate small surgical instruments inserted into the tube for biopsies or treatment. You will be awake during a flexible cystoscopy procedure, but general anesthesia or the numbing of the lower half of your body may be applied for a rigid cystoscopy procedure.  

Common symptoms requiring a cystoscopy are blood in the urine, frequent urinary tract infections, urinating problems, and chronic pelvic pain. Common conditions diagnosed and treated with cystoscopy are:

  • Bladder infections and UTIs 
  • Bladder stones 
  • Hematuria (blood in urine) 

The advantage of getting a cystoscopy is that it can find early signs of cancer, infections, narrowing, blockage, or bleeding in the urethra and bladder. The disadvantage is that biopsies and treatments can’t be done during a flexible cystoscope procedure if the surgeon sees an abnormality. A rigid cystoscope procedure would have to be scheduled to follow.


A ureteroscopy is functionally the same as a cystoscope, being equipped with a lens and a light. The difference is that the ureteroscope is longer, allowing a surgeon to insert the instrument into the urethra, through the bladder, and into the ureter leading to the kidney. When having a ureteroscopy procedure, general anesthesia is necessary.

You might need a ureteroscopy if you have the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain in your back or side
  • Blood in the urine
  • Burning when urinating

These symptoms can be indicative of common conditions that are diagnosed and treated with a ureteroscopy, such as:

  • Kidney stones 
  • Ureteral strictures 
  • Ureteral tumors 

The advantage of a ureteroscopy is that a doctor can see kidney stones located in the ureter and kidney and remove the stones instantaneously. The disadvantage is that the surgeon will have to place a stent in the ureter to facilitate the drainage of urine to the bladder. The surgeon will then need to remove the stent at a later date.

Similarities between Cystoscopy and Ureteroscopy

Both of these procedures are done as outpatient procedures in most cases. However, if you were under general anesthesia during these processes, you’ll need someone to drive you home when you’re released.

Differences between Cystoscopy and Ureteroscopy 

Because the diagnostic and treatment target areas are different for each procedure, the risks and complications will be specific to those target areas. A ureteroscopy can cause infection or injury to the ureter or kidneys, while it’s most likely the bladder and urethra will be affected by complications and risks after a cystoscopy.

Treatment Plans Following Cystoscopy and Ureteroscopy 

After both a cystoscopy and a ureteroscopy, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent infection. A cystoscopy will cause belly pain, blood in the urine, and pain when urinating for up to 48 hours. Drink several glasses of water a day to flush out the bladder and take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease the pain. 

A ureteroscopy may cause more pain which prescribed pain medication may ease. You may feel pain in your bladder and burning when you urinate. If the kidney stone the surgeon treated was large, you may have to pass stone fragments still present in the days following the procedure. Follow your doctor’s diet and medication recommendations to prevent future stone formation.

Cystoscopy and Ureteroscopy Procedures in Middle Tennessee

There are similarities and differences between cystoscopy and ureteroscopy procedures, but both are important in the early diagnosis and treatment of urological conditions. Because these procedures target different issues in the urinary tract, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice. At the Incontinence Institute, we specialize in urinary tract diagnostic and treatment options. Contact our team to find out if a cystoscopy or ureteroscopy is the right option for you.

About The Incontinence Institute

At the Incontinence Institute, our team of healthcare providers understand the physical and mental trials that accompany living with urinary or bowel incontinence. Because of this, we are sensitive to your situation and treat all of our patients with the utmost respect and concern for discretion.

Individual incontinence conditions, treatment and recovery times may vary. Each patient's experience with incontinence procedures and / or surgery will differ. All surgical procedures involve some level of risk. If directed to pursue surgery by your physician, prompt action is advised, as waiting may reduce the efficacy of surgical treatment. The opinions expressed in patient testimonials are by patients only; they are not qualified medical professionals. These opinions should not be relied upon as, or in place of, the medical advice of a licensed doctor, etc.

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Incontinence Institute 2009 Mallory Lane, Suite 100 Franklin, Tennessee 37067