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Care for an Indwelling Urinary Catheter

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A urinary 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.

When 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 camera.gif and women camera.gif. 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 is paralyzed.

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.

Catheter care

Always wash your hands before and after handling a catheter. Follow all of the instructions the doctor has given. Also:

  • 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.
  • Do not 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.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: September 09, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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