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Indwelling catheter care

You have an indwelling catheter (tube) in your bladder. "Indwelling" means inside your body. This catheter drains urine from your bladder into a bag outside your body. Common reasons to have an indwelling catheter are urinary incontinence (leakage), urinary retention (not being able to urinate), surgery that made this catheter necessary, or another health problem.

Alternate Names

Foley catheter

What to Expect at Home

You will need to make sure your indwelling catheter is working properly. You will also need to know how to clean the tube and the area where it attaches to your body so that you do not get an infection or skin irritation. Make catheter and skin care part of your daily routine.

Avoid physical activity for a week or two after your catheter is placed in your bladder.

Cleaning Your Skin

You will need these supplies for cleaning your skin around your catheter and for cleaning your catheter:

  • 2 clean washcloths
  • 2 clean hand towels
  • Mild soap
  • Warm water
  • A clean container or sink

Follow these skin care guidelines once a day, every day, or more often if needed:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water. Be sure to clean between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Wet one of the washcloths with warm water and soap it up.
  • Gently wash all around the area where the catheter goes in with the soapy washcloth. Females should wipe from front to back. Males should wipe from the tip of the penis downward.
  • Rinse the washcloth with water until the soap is gone.
  • Add more soap to the washcloth. Use it to gently wash your upper legs and buttocks.
  • Rinse off the soap and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • Do not use creams, powders, or sprays near this area.

Cleaning the Catheter

Follow these steps two times a day to keep your catheter clean and free of germs that can cause infection:

  • Wash your hands well with soap and water. Be sure to clean between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Change the warm water in your container if you are using a container and not a sink.
  • Wet the second washcloth with warm water and soap it up.
  • Gently hold the catheter and begin washing the end near your vagina or penis. Move slowly down the catheter (away from your body) to clean it. NEVER clean from the bottom of the catheter toward your body.
  • Gently dry the tubing with the second clean towel.

Women will attach the catheter to their inner thigh. Men will attach it to their belly.

Making Sure Your Catheter Is Working

You will need to check your catheter and bag throughout the day.

  • Always keep your bag below your waist.
  • Try not to disconnect the catheter more than you need to. Keeping it connected to the bag will make it work better.
  • Check for kinks, and move the tubing around if it is not draining.
  • Drink plenty of water during the day to keep urine flowing.

When to Call the Doctor

A urinary tract infection is the most common problem for people with an indwelling urinary catheter.

Call your doctor or nurse if you have signs of an infection, such as:

  • Pain around your sides or lower back
  • Urine smells bad, or it is cloudy or a different color
  • Fever or chills
  • A burning sensation or pain in your bladder or pelvis
  • You don't feel like yourself -- you feel tired, achy, and have a hard time focusing.

Also call your doctor or nurse if:

  • Your urine┬ábag is filling up quickly, and you have an increase in urine.
  • Urine is leaking around the catheter.
  • You notice blood in your urine.
  • Your catheter seems blocked.
  • You notice grit or stones in your urine.
  • You have pain near the catheter.
  • You have any concerns about your catheter.

References

Chochran S. Care of the indwelling urinary catheter: is it evidence? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007 May-Jun;34(3):282-8.

Feneley RC. An indwelling urinary catheter for the 21st century. BJU International. 2012 June;109(12):1746-9.

Updated: 12/12/2012

Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital; and Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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