What is a ureteroscopy?

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 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, so the patient will be asleep while the procedure is being done. The procedure will usually take around 30 minutes, but this will differ depending on the what they are investigating. 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

Before the ureteroscopy begins, you will be asked to empty your bladder and you will also be asked to stop eating and drinking for a period of time before the surgery; this is very important. Once the anaesthetic has started working, the ureteroscope will be inserted into the urethra, up to the bladder and then through to the ureter.

A sterile solution will be added 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 surgery is done to treat kidney stones, then this will be done at the same time. If the surgery is done to investigate cancer, then a biopsy may be taken (a small sample of tissue) to test for abnormal cells, you will usually get result a few days after the procedure.

Like all surgeries, there are possible risks, however the chance of any major complications occurring are very low. These include:

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

Download the BAUS leaflet on ureteroscopy here.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.