This week one of my patients needed a cystocentesis (cyst-toe-cent-pieces with a silent P) performed. “Wow,” you might say, ”That sounds horrible: A cyst on a toe as big as a penny in pieces?”
Although, I like to use long scary doctor words, “cysto” means we are talking about the urinary bladder (very far away from the paws!) and the “centesis” means roughly ‘poking with a needle,’ which sounds scary but really isn’t! So, performing cystocentesis means that I stick a long, skinny needle straight through the animal’s belly, right into its bladder and use a syringe to retrieve a little bit of urine. Why on earth would I want to do this, you might ask. Cystocentesis is a fairly common procedure that is used in veterinary medicine to get a STERILE urine sample, which can be used for a number of diagnostic tests. The most frequent test that I run with my samples is called a “Urine Culture and Sensitivity,” which is considered the best way to diagnose a urinary tract infection. I usually run this test after I am already suspicious of a urinary tract infection based on the patients behaviors (symptoms include increases in thirst and urination, blood seen in urine, peeing in inappropriate places like the carpet instead of the grass) and other diagnostic tests like a urinalysis, which is performed on a sample of urine I have caught/collected while chasing the pet around with a piece of short Tupperware. While a urinalysis gives me lots of information and can often show me signs of a urinary tract infection, it functions more as a screening tool, as it is not always definitive. A urine Culture and Sensitivity is a great test because it will tell me for sure if a patient has an infection, in addition to giving me the specific organism causing the infection, which allows me to prescribe the best antibiotic to treat it. This helps me make sure that my patients are treated appropriately, and will get better as soon as possible.
Does it hurt my pet? I’m sure it hurts a tiny bit, but only as much as poking with a needle to get some blood, or a sample of an abnormal growth. (Actually, I use an even smaller gauge needle so it probably hurts less.) My patient this week was so good for the procedure: she was super brave, and didn’t even flinch as the needle was inserted. Some dogs or cats are a little more sensitive, but it shouldn’t hurt very much or for very long.
Is it safe? Yes. Cystocentesis overall is a very safe procedure. There are a few rare times when it may carry some risks (for example if your pet has a bleeding disorder or bladder cancer) and if these are possibilities, your veterinarian should discuss those risks with you before they perform it.
Now, hopefully you won’t be worried if you hear your pet needs to have a cystocentesis!