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 and women.
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
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
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.
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
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 your doctor has given you
instructions about when to notify him or her, be sure to follow those
instructions. Call your doctor if:
No urine or very little urine is flowing into
the collection bag for 4 or more hours.
No urine or very little
urine is flowing into the collection bag and you feel like your bladder is
You have new pain in your abdomen, pelvis, legs, or
Your urine has changed color, is very cloudy, looks bloody,
or has large blood clots in it.
The insertion site becomes very
irritated, swollen, red, or tender, or you have pus draining from the catheter
You may have trouble urinating. If this
happens, try sitting in a few inches of warm water (sitz bath).
This may help you relax. If you feel the urge, it may be easier to urinate
while you are still in the bath.
You may have some burning the
first few times you urinate. If the burning lasts longer, it may be a sign of
Drink plenty of fluids, enough so that your urine is
light yellow or clear like water. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease
and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount
of fluids you drink.
Wear loose cotton underwear if you have
irritation or a rash from your catheter.
Also, it is important to know when you are having a
problem and when to call your doctor. After catheter removal, call your doctor
You do not urinate within 8 hours after the
catheter is taken out.
You have a feeling of fullness or pain in
your bladder or belly.
You have signs of a urinary infection. For
You have blood or pus in your
You have pain in your back just below your rib cage. This
is called flank pain.
You have a fever, chills, or body aches.
It hurts to urinate.
You have groin or belly
Other Places To Get Help
AUA Foundation: The Official Foundation of the American Urological
1000 Corporate Boulevard
Linthicum, MD 21090
UrologyHealth.org is a website written by urologists
for patients. Visitors can find specific topics by using the "search"
The website provides information about adult and
pediatric urologic topics, including kidney, bladder, and prostate conditions.
You can find a urologist, sign up for a free quarterly newsletter, or click on
the Urology A–Z page to find materials about urologic problems.
National Institute on Aging
Building 31, Room 5C27
31 Center Drive, MSC 2292
Bethesda, MD 20892
The National Institute on Aging (NIA), one of the
centers of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, leads a broad scientific
effort to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active
years of life. The NIA funds research and provides information about health and
research advances to the public and interested groups.
National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information
3 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3580
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information
Clearinghouse (NKUDIC) provides information about diseases of the
kidneys and urologic system to people with these problems and to
their families, to health professionals, and to the public. NKUDIC answers
inquiries; develops, reviews, and distributes publications; and works closely
with professional and patient groups and government agencies to
coordinate resources about kidney and urologic diseases.
NKUDIC, a federal agency, is a service of the National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). NIDDK is part
of the National Institutes of Health under the U.S. Department of Health and
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.