A urinary catheter is a tube placed in the body to drain and collect urine from the bladder.
Urinary catheters are used to drain the bladder. Your health care provider may recommend that you use a catheter if you have:
Catheters come in many sizes, materials (latex, silicone, Teflon™), and types (Foley, straight, coude tip). A Foley catheter, for example, is a soft, plastic or rubber tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain the urine.
Your provider will use the smallest possible catheter most of the time.
There are three main types of catheters:
INDWELLING URETHRAL CATHETERS
An indwelling urinary catheter is one that is left in the bladder. You may use an indwelling catheter for a short time or a long time.
An indwelling catheter collects urine by attaching to a drainage bag. A newer type of catheter has a valve that can be opened to allow urine to flow out.
An indwelling catheter may be inserted into the bladder in two ways:
An indwelling catheter has a small balloon inflated on the end of it. This prevents the catheter from sliding out of your body. When the catheter needs to be removed, the balloon is deflated.
Condom catheters can be used by men with incontinence. There is no tube placed inside the penis. Instead, a condom-like device is placed over the penis. A tube leads from this device to a drainage bag. The condom catheter must be changed every day.
You would use an intermittent catheter when you only need to use a catheter sometimes or you do not want to wear a bag. You or your caregiver will insert the catheter to drain the bladder and then remove it. This can be done only once or several times a day. The frequency will depend on the reason you need to use this method.
A catheter is most often attached to a drainage bag. There are two types of bags:
Keep the drainage bag lower than your bladder so that urine does not flow back up into your bladder. Empty the drainage device at least every 8 hours, or when it is full.
To clean the drainage bag, remove it from the catheter. Attach a new drainage device to the catheter while you clean the old one.
Clean and deodorize the drainage bag by filling it with a mixture of vinegar and water. Or, you can use chlorine bleach instead. Let the bag soak for 20 minutes. Hang it with the outlet valve open to drain and dry.
HOW TO CARE FOR A CATHETER
To care for an indwelling catheter, clean the area where the catheter exits your body and the catheter itself with soap and water every day. Also clean the area after every bowel movement to prevent infection.
If you have a suprapubic catheter, clean the opening in your belly and the tube with soap and water every day. Then cover it with dry gauze.
Drink plenty of fluids to help prevent infections. Ask your provider how much you should drink.
Wash your hands before and after handling the drainage device. DO NOT allow the outlet valve to touch anything. If the outlet gets dirty, clean it with soap and water.
Sometimes urine can leak around the catheter. This may be caused by:
Complications of catheter use include:
Call your health care provider if you have:
If the catheter becomes clogged, painful, or infected, it will need to be replaced right away.
Reviewed By: Jennifer Sobol, DO, Urologist with the Michigan Institute of Urology, West Bloomfield, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.