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 is not permanent.
general, an ICP requires that you limit your fluids. You and your doctor will
figure out how much fluid you can consume each day and what times are best to
use the catheter.
How to use the catheter
Following is a general
outline of the procedure. Your rehabilitation (rehab) team or doctor will show you and/or a
loved one how to perform a catheterization.
Be sure you have everything you need. This
typically includes a catheter, a mirror, a container to collect the urine,
latex or other medical gloves, and cleansing equipment, such as cotton balls,
paper towels, soap, and antiseptics. You may also want to use a water-based
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and put
on the gloves. Gloves are optional.
Get into a
position that is most comfortable for you and/or your
caregiver. This is typically sitting or lying down.
end of the catheter so that urine can flow out into a collection container. If
you wish, lubricate the tip of the catheter.
vulval folds with your thumb and finger.
Wash the vulva area with soap and water. Wash from front to
Position the mirror between your legs so you can find the
urinary opening. You should learn to do this without a mirror also.
Slowly insert the catheter into the urinary
opening. If you feel resistance, pause for a few minutes and then gently press
the catheter in again. If you cannot insert the catheter, do not force it.
Stop, and call your doctor.
When urine begins to flow, insert the
catheter about 1 in. (2.5 cm)
When the urine stops flowing, press your abdomen or tighten
the abdomen muscles. This helps to completely empty the
Remove the catheter slowly. If urine begins to flow again,
stop removing the catheter until the urine flow stops.
hands or take off the gloves.
Examine the urine. If it is cloudy,
has blood in it, or there has been a change in color or odor, call your
Wash the catheter with soap and water, or put
it in an antiseptic solution.
Rinse the catheter, inside and out,
with clean water. Some people use a syringe to push soapy water through the
Dry the catheter. Place it on a clean towel, fold the
towel over, and hang the towel on a rack.
When the catheter is dry,
place it in a plastic bag.
Primary Medical Reviewer
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Nancy Greenwald, MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.