Urethroscopy is an office procedure that is done with minimal discomfort to the patient. It is used to evaluate the urethra for abnormalities that could be contributing to incontinence. It is also useful in women that have painful urination, or recurrent bladder infections.
The opening to the urethra is prepped with a gel that has a numbing effect. After the urethra is numb, a small scope is inserted into the urethra. The doctor is able to see the lining of the urethra and check the condition of the tissues. Careful evaluation is done for any evidence of infection, or infected glands. Also small out-pouches call "diverticula" can be found. These can be responsible for recurrent symptoms of bladder infection (burning and frequency).
With the scope in place, a patient with stress incontinence will be asked to cough or "bear down". The neck of the bladder can frequently be seen to open up during this activity. This helps to confirm the diagnosis of stress incontinence. Also the doctor can make sure that the tissue is healthy and that if surgery is done--it should be successful.
Most patients have minimal discomfort with this procedure and can go home immediately afterward. A mild antibiotic may be given for a few days after to prevent infection.Urethroscopy is only useful to evaluate conditions in the urethra. If a bladder problem is suspected, then a more aggressive, but similar technique is used call "cystoscopy". If cystoscopy is felt to be indicated, then many times a urologist will be consulted for this.