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Bladder Investigations

If you suffer from an overactive bladder, you may need a bladder investigation to diagnose, monitor and treat any bladder problems you may have.

There are different ways in which the bladder can be explored and the choice of method depends on your specific medical situation and the information your doctor needs in order to make a diagnosis.

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Everything you need to know

There are different ways in which the bladder can be explored and the choice of method depends on your specific medical situation and the information your doctor needs in order to make a diagnosis.

Investigations include:

  • Cystoscopy: This is a common method of bladder exploration. It involves using a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera on the end, called a cystoscope, to visually examine the interior of the bladder.


  • Bladder Ultrasound: Another way to explore the bladder is through ultrasound imaging. This non-invasive method uses sound waves to create images of the bladder and its surrounding structures. It can be used to assess the size, shape, and function of the bladder.


  • Urodynamic Testing: This is a series of tests that evaluate how well the bladder, sphincters (the muscles that control the flow of urine out of the bladder), and urethra (the tube out of which urine leaves the body), are storing and releasing urine. Urodynamic testing can provide information about bladder function and help diagnose conditions such as urinary incontinence or problems with emptying the bladder.

Some symptoms that may require you to have a bladder investigation include:

  • Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Incontinence
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pelvic pain or discomfort
  • Painful urination

Through a bladder investigation, your doctor will be able to:

  • Diagnose bladder conditions

A bladder exploration can help you find out whether you’re suffering from bladder cancer, bladder stones, bladder inflammation (cystitis), or other medical conditions, such as an enlarged prostate.

  • Treat bladder diseases and conditions

At times, your doctor will be able to diagnose and treat you at the same appointment. For example, during a cystoscopy, tiny tools can be passed through the cystoscope to remove very small bladder tumours.


Firstly, you will need to book a consultation with one of our consultant urologists. During this appointment, your doctor will take a detailed medical history, including information about medications, allergies, past surgeries, and lifestyle habits (such as smoking). They may also run some general tests to try and make a diagnosis. This could involve giving a urine sample. If you are suffering from a urinary tract infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to help manage your symptoms.

If your doctor needs further information, they may recommend a bladder investigation to take a closer look at your bladder.

During a bladder investigation, your doctor will be able to observe the urinary tract, assess your bladder capacity and function, and take a look at your pelvic muscles and organs. If you have a prostate, they will also be able to see whether it is enlarged.



A cystoscopy can be performed in different ways. It could be done using a local anaesthetic gel to numb your urethra or it could be done as a day-patient procedure with sedation. Alternatively, it could be done under general anaesthesia where you are asleep. The type of cystoscopy you have will depend on the reason for your procedure.

Ahead of your cystoscopy, you doctor may ask you to take antibiotics, especially if you have trouble fighting off infections.

If you will be having sedation or general anaesthetic, you should stop eating six hours beforehand. Two hours before, you should stop drinking (including water), chewing gum and sucking boiled sweets. If you are just having local anaesthetic, you can carry on as normal.

You should also wait to empty your bladder as your doctor may ask you to provide a urine sample just before your cystoscopy starts.

The doctor will start the procedure by passing the cystoscope (a thin tube) through the urethra and into the bladder. The cystoscope will have a camera and light at the end, which will transmit real-time images of your bladder to a monitor.

Your doctor will look around the bladder for any abnormalities, such as tumours, stones or signs of infection. In some cases, your doctor will be able to treat you then and there. For example, they could remove very small tumours using special instruments.

A cystoscopy is a quick procedure. When done with local anaesthetic it usually only takes between 5 – 15 minutes. If done under sedation or general anaesthetic, the procedure will take a little longer, between 15 – 30 minutes.

If you had local anaesthetic, after the procedure, you should be able to carry on with your day. If you had sedation or general, we will take you to a private room to recover and wait for the medication to wear off. Someone will need to collect you and take you home, as you will not be able to drive.

Bladder ultrasound

A bladder ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging procedure and, as such, requires minimum preparation. Your doctor may ask you to drink plenty of water beforehand though so that your bladder is full. This will help provide a clearer view of the bladder structures.
You will be asked to lie on your back on a couch and expose your lower abdomen. A water-based gel will then be applied to your skin. This helps the sound waves from the ultrasound transducer (a handheld device) pass through the skin and produce a clear image. The healthcare professional conducting your scan will measure your bladder’s dimensions and document any findings. A report will be sent to your consultant urologist who will discuss the results with you.

Urodynamic Testing

If you are having urodynamic testing, you will be asked to come to hospital with a comfortably full bladder. In some cases, we may use a catheter to fill your bladder with sterile fluid or a small, flexible catheter with pressure sensors may be inserted into the bladder through the urethra in order to measure the baseline resting pressure. For some urodynamic tests, a pressure flow study may also be performed. This involves measuring the pressure in the bladder during voiding to assess the flow rate and to identify any obstructions. Once the testing is complete, a report will be sent to your consultant who will discuss the results with you.


Depending on the type of bladder investigation performed, you may be able to return to everyday activities straight away or you may need a few days’ rest.

If you underwent urodynamics testing or a bladder ultrasound, you should not have any after-affects and will be able to get carry on with your day afterwards.

After a cystoscopy however, it make take a few days to get back to normal. If you had sedation or general, you will feel drowsy for 24 hours after.

After effects from the cystoscopy may include:

  • Bleeding, which can look bright pink in your urine or on toilet tissue
  • A burning sensation when peeing
  • More frequent urination for a couple of days

However, within a few days, you should be back to normal.

If you’re concerned about your bladder health, please call us and ask for an appointment with a consultant urologist.

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How to pay for your treatment

If you’re… paying for yourself

Did you know you don’t need private medical insurance to come to St John & St Elizabeth Hospital? As a self-pay patient, you can access safe, outstanding quality health care at times to suit you.

For scans and tests, as well as to see most consultants, you’ll still need to be referred by a medical professional like your GP, but as a self-pay patient, the process is more straightforward. You won’t need authorisation from an insurance provider, and you’ll have greater choice of consultant and appointment times.

If you’re… insured

St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is approved by all major medical insurance companies. If you have a personal private health insurance policy, or your company provide it for you, you can use it to pay for your care from your initial consultation through to treatment, surgery and aftercare such as physiotherapy. Not all private health insurance plans cover the same things. It’s very important to check exactly what you are covered for with your insurance provider.