catheter is a flexible plastic tube used to drain
urine from the bladder when a person cannot urinate. A doctor will
place the catheter into the bladder by inserting it through the urethra. The urethra is the
opening that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
the catheter is in the bladder, a small balloon is inflated to keep the
catheter in place. The catheter allows urine to drain from the bladder into a
bag that is usually attached to the thigh. Urinary catheters can be used in both men and women. An indwelling catheter is one that stays in for a
longer period of time.
A catheter may be
needed because of certain medical conditions. These include an enlarged prostate or problems controlling the release of urine. It may be used after surgery on the pelvis or
urinary tract. Urinary catheters are also used when the lower part of the body
If you are helping a loved one with a catheter, try to be as relaxed as possible. Caring for a catheter can be embarrassing for both of you. This may be especially true if you are caring for someone of the opposite sex. If you are not embarrassed or upset, the person may feel more comfortable.
Always wash your hands before and
after handling a catheter. Follow all of the instructions the doctor has
Make sure that urine is flowing out of the
catheter into the urine collection bag. Make sure that the catheter tubing does
not get twisted or kinked.
Keep the urine collection bag below the
level of the bladder.
Make sure that the urine collection bag does
not drag and pull on the catheter.
It is okay to shower with a catheter and urine collection bag in
place, unless the doctor says not to.
Check for inflammation or signs of infection in the area
around the catheter. Signs of infection include pus or irritated, swollen, red,
or tender skin.
Clean the area around the catheter twice a day
with water. Dry with a clean towel afterward.
apply powder or lotion to the skin around the catheter.
Do not tug
or pull on the catheter.
A person should not have sexual intercourse while
wearing a catheter.
At night it may be helpful to hang the urine
collection bag on the side of the bed.
To empty the urine collection bag
You will need to
empty the bag regularly. It is best to empty the bag when it's about half full or at bedtime. If the
doctor has asked you to measure the amount of urine, do that before you
empty the urine into the toilet.
Wash your hands with soap and water. If you
are emptying another person's collection bag, you may choose to wear disposable
Remove the drain spout from its sleeve at the bottom of the
collection bag. Open the valve on the spout.
Let the urine flow out
of the bag and into the toilet or a container. Do not let the tubing or drain
spout touch anything.
After you empty the bag, wipe off any liquid
on the end of the drain spout. Close the valve and put the drain spout back
into its sleeve at the bottom of the collection bag.
Wash your hands with soap and water.
When to call a doctor
If the doctor has given
instructions about when to call him or her, be sure to follow those
instructions. Call the doctor if:
No urine or very little urine is flowing into
the collection bag for 4 hours or more.
There is new pain in the belly or pelvic area.
The urine has changed color, is very cloudy, looks bloody, has a bad smell,
or has large blood clots in it.
The place where the catheter goes into the body (the insertion site) becomes very
irritated, swollen, red, or tender, or there is pus draining from the site.
leaking from the insertion site.
There are signs of a kidney infection, such as a fever of
100.4°F (38°C) or higher or
back or flank pain.
Symptoms such as nausea,
vomiting, or shaking chills occur.
After the catheter is removed
After the catheter is
A person may have trouble urinating. If this
happens, try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath). If the urge to urinate comes during the sitz bath, it may be easier to urinate while still in the bath.
Some burning may happen when urinating for the
first few times. If the burning lasts longer, it may be a sign of
Drink plenty of fluids. If fluids need to be limited because of kidney, heart, or liver disease, talk with the doctor before increasing the amount
If the catheter causes
irritation or a rash, wearing loose cotton underwear may help.
Also, it is important to know when there is a
problem and when to call the doctor. After catheter removal, call the doctor
No urine comes out within 8 hours after the
catheter is taken out.
The bladder or belly feels full or is painful.
You see signs of a urinary infection. Signs include:
Blood or pus in the
Pain in the back just below the rib cage. This
is called flank pain.
Fever, chills, or body aches.
Pain when urinating.
Other Places To Get Help
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (U.S.)
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.