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Care for an Indwelling Urinary Catheter

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Topic Overview

A urinary catheter is a flexible plastic tube used to drain urine from your bladder when you cannot urinate by yourself. A doctor will place the catheter into the bladder by inserting it through the urethra, 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. Indwelling urinary catheters can be used in both men camera.gif and women camera.gif.

A catheter may be needed because of certain medical conditions, such as an enlarged prostate, the inability to control the release of urine, or after surgery on the pelvis or urinary tract. Urinary catheters are also used when the lower part of the body is paralyzed.

Catheter care

Always wash your hands before and after handling your catheter. Follow all of the instructions your doctor has given you. 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 your bladder.
  • Make sure that the urine collection bag does not drag and pull on the catheter.
  • Unless you have been told not to, it is okay to shower with your catheter and urine collection bag in place.
  • 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 using soap and 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.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse while wearing a catheter.
  • At night you may wish to hang the urine collection bag on the side of your bed.

To empty the urine collection bag

You will need to empty the bag regularly, whenever it is half full, and at bedtime. If your doctor has instructed you to measure the amount of urine, do so 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 wish to wear disposable gloves.
  • 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.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 05, 2012
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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