A ureteroscopy is a procedure that involves looking at the top half of the urinary system (kidneys and ureter). A ureteroscopy is performed by inserting a telescope-like device, called a ureteroscope, into the urethra, through the bladder to the ureter and kidneys. The ureteroscope is around the same thickness as a narrow pencil. It has a small camera on the end so that the surgeon can examine the kidneys and ureter.

A ureteroscopy is usually performed under general anaesthetic. The procedure will usually take around 30 minutes, but this will differ depending on what is being investigated. Once the ureteroscopy is finished and the anaesthetic has worn off, you will be able to go home (around 2-4 hours after the procedure).

A ureteroscopy is often performed to treat kidney stones, however it can also be used to investigate unexplained bleeding, assess cancer and assess how treatment is working. These conditions can usually be picked up a scan, so you should only need a ureteroscopy if your doctor requests further investigations.

The procedure

You will also be asked to stop eating and drinking for a period of time before the procedure. Once the anaesthetic is established, the ureteroscope will be inserted into the urethra, up to the bladder and then through to the ureter.

A sterile solution (such as water or saline) will be put in to the bladder, making it easier for the bladder walls to be seen. If there is a concern about your kidneys, then the ureteroscope will be advanced up to the kidneys.

If the ureteroscopy is being performed to investigate cancer, then a biopsy (a small sample of tissue) may be taken to test for abnormal cells.

The possible risks of having an ureteroscopy include:

  • Bleeding
  • Injury to ureter
  • Infection
  • Discomfort when urinating
  • Difficulty urinating due to swelling

The chance of any major complications occurring are very low . This leaflet from the BAUS (British Association of Urological Surgeons) contains more information about having a ureteroscopy.

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