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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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Living With a Spinal Cord Injury - Bladder Care

Bladder programs continued...

Common ways to manage bladder function include the following:

  • Intermittent catheterization programs (ICPs) are often used when you have the ability to use a catheter yourself or someone can do it for you. You insert the catheter-a thin, flexible, hollow tube-through the urethra into the bladder and allow the urine to drain out. It is done at scheduled times, and the catheter isn't permanent.
    Intermittent Catheterization for Men
    Intermittent Catheterization for Women
  • If you can't use intermittent catheterization, you can use a permanent catheter known as an indwelling Foley catheter camera.gif. Urinary tract infections are more likely to occur with long-term use of an indwelling catheter than with an ICP. Caring for the catheter is important to avoid infections.
  • If you use an indwelling Foley catheter, after a period of time you may be able to change to a suprapubic indwelling catheter. This is a permanent catheter that is surgically inserted above the pubic bone directly into the bladder. It does not go through the urethra.
  • If you can't use intermittent catheterization and can't (or don't want to) use an indwelling catheter, you may be able to choose surgery that creates a urostomy. An opening (stoma) is made between your bladder and the skin of your belly. Urine then drains into a bag attached to your skin at the stoma. Intermittent catheterization can be used through the stoma, if needed.
  • For men, a condom catheter camera.gif can also be used. Condom catheters are only for short-term use, because long-term use increases the risk of urinary tract infections, damage to the penis from friction with the condom, and a block in the urethra.
  • If you have a spastic bladder, you may be able to "trigger" the bladder to contract and avoid having to use a catheter. To do this, you can try tapping on the bladder area, stroking your thigh, or doing push-ups in your wheelchair. Or you can use Valsalva maneuvers, which are efforts to breathe out without letting air escape through the nose or mouth.
  • It is also possible to use absorbent products, such as adult diapers.

You may use just one method or a combination.

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