Welcome to the Broward Urology Center comprehensive guide on urinary catheters and how to care for them. We understand that learning about medical devices can be overwhelming, but with this guide, we hope to make it clear and straightforward for you to understand what a urinary catheter is and how to take care of it properly.
What is a Urinary Catheter?
A urinary catheter is a medical device used to assist patients who have difficulty urinating or cannot control their bladder. It is a thin, flexible tube inserted into the bladder through the urethra (the urinary tube). The catheter's main purpose is to drain urine from the bladder. It runs from inside the bladder to the outside where it is usually connected to a drainage bag. There are different types of urinary catheters, but the most common ones are indwelling (Foley) catheters that may stay in the bladder for several weeks at a time, and intermittent catheters which are just placed to remove the urine and then removed until bladder drainage is needed again.
How is a Urinary Catheter Inserted?
For indwelling catheters (Foley catheters), a healthcare professional will insert the catheter into your bladder and inflate a small balloon at the tip to keep it in place. The other end of the catheter is connected to a drainage bag to collect urine. All medical personnel at our facility have been trained to place catheters and this is mostly done by the medical assistants or nurses.
For intermittent catheters, you or a caregiver can insert the catheter through the urethra into the bladder to drain the urine. After emptying the bladder, the catheter is removed, and it doesn't stay in place like the indwelling catheter.
Why Would You Need a Urinary Catheter?
Urinary catheters may be necessary for various reasons, such as:
1. After surgery, when you might have difficulty urinating.
2. If you have a medical condition that affects bladder control or blocks the urinary flow (such as a large prostate).
3. If you are unable to move or have a disability that makes it hard to use the bathroom on your own.
What are the bags attached to the catheter?
There are typically two types of bags that attach to the end of the catheter and collect your urine.
- The lare, or bedside, urinary bag is great for night time because it can collect a large volume of urine and does not require frequent emptying. However, the larger bag needs to be carried around when you want to move around and that may get more difficult when they become full and heavy.
- A leg bag is a small urinary bag that is also connected to the end of the catheter and is strapped onto a patient’s thigh. Pants, shorts or a skirt maybe worn over the bag and this allows for easy mobility while having a urinary catheter.
We encourage the use of the leg bag during the day to allow for better mobility and switching to the large urinary bag for nighttime.
How to Take Care of a Urinary Catheter?
Proper care of your urinary catheter is essential to ensure your comfort and avoid problems. Here are some steps to take care of your catheter:
1. Keep it Clean: Wash your hands with soap and water before touching the catheter or drainage bag.
2. Keep the Tubing Free: Make sure the tubing is not kinked or twisted to allow urine to flow freely into the drainage bag.
3. Empty the Bag Regularly: The drainage bag should be emptied when it's about half full Always keep the bag below the level of your bladder to prevent urine from flowing backwards.
4. Stay Hydrated: Drink enough fluids to keep your urine light yellow (not completely clear but also not dark yellow). The right amount varies from patient to patient. Staying hydrated helps maintain healthy urine flow and prevents catheter blockages.
5. Avoid Pulling or Tugging: Be careful not to tug or pull on the catheter tubing, as it may cause discomfort or dislodge the catheter.
7. Maintain Personal Hygiene: Keep the catheter and the surrounding area clean and dry. Avoid using powders, lotions, or oils near the catheter insertion site.
8. Prevent constipation: Constipation can be a major problem for those patients who are having a hard time urinating and require a catheter. By fixing constipation, puts less pressure on the urinary organs and improves the chances of urinating without a catheter in the future.
10. Watch for Signs of Infection: Look out for signs of infection, such as fever, chills, changes in mental state, very cloudy, bloody, or foul-smelling urine. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact our office or your primary care physician immediately.
11. Smart Use of Antibiotics: Please understand that EVERYONE with a urinary catheter in the bladder eventually has bacteria or fungus growing on the tube and in the bladder. It is normal for us to find bacteria in the urine if we test for it. However, finding bacteria in the urine does NOT mean that there is an active infection requiring treatment. This is similar to what we find in your mouth. Your mouth normally has a lot of different bacteria, but only when you have redness, swelling or pain in your mouth, do we call this an infection and give you antibiotics.
So too with urinary catheters, if we randomly test your urine, we may likely find bacteria. However, we strongly urge you to question any medical provider who prescribes antibiotics without you having any of the signs of infection (fevers, chills, confusion, cloudy, bloody, or foul smelling urine). The reason we want to limit antibiotic use is to prevent antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs develop the ability to withstand the drugs intended to kill them. Consequently, these germs survive and grow. According to the CDC, In the United States, there are over 2.8 million cases of antibiotic-resistant infections annually, leading to more than 35,000 deaths.
Although antibiotics are life-saving medications, their use can also lead to side effects and contribute to the emergence of antibiotic resistance. We would like to do our best to prevent our patients from developing antibiotic-resistant germs while they have a catheter. Please call us if you have questions about antibiotic use while you have a catheter.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is it ok if the catheter moves in and out?
This catheter is inserted into the bladder and held in place by a balloon. It will slide in and out of the urethra about 1-2 inches or more, but it should not fall out unless it is pulled very, very hard. Do not pull on the catheter except to reposition for comfort with the leg bag. The tubing on the catheter should not be on any tension. Any tension or pulling of the catheter may cause pain and may cause the catheter not to drain well.
If you think the catheter is too far out of the bladder and is not draining well, please have it checked either at our office, an urgent care or emergency department.
Where should I keep the leg bag?
The catheter is connected to a drainage bag which attaches to your leg. Please keep both straps ABOVE the knee on the inner aspect of the thigh. The straps need to be on the underside of the valves, against your skin. Do not put the bag on your leg with the straps on top of the tubing and the lettering on the bag. You may not have proper drainage from the catheter into the bag if this happens.
How do I empty the leg bag?
Depending on the brand of the leg bag, to empty the urine out of the bag either pull off the little cap at the bottom of the bag or twist the cap until it opens. You may drain the bag into a basin or directly into the toilet. Please do this when the bag is partially full, as this gets rather heavy on the leg and pulls on the straps.
Anything else I can do to improve the comfort with having a catheter?
Please reposition the leg bag daily to the opposite leg, making sure the lettering on the bag is facing out and the straps are not on top of the tubing. This helps to prevent skin irritation. Also, remember to keep the bag positioned above the knee to avoid pulling the catheter.
You may put some vaseline a the tip of the penis or vaginal opening to help the catheter move around without friction or pulling.
I am having some urine leaking around the catheter. Is that normal?
It is normal to occasionally have a bit of urine leaking around the catheter when the bladder spasms/cramps and pushes urine around the tube. It is NOT NORMAL to have urine only drain around the catheter and nothing come through the catheter into the bag. If the catheter is not draining, it is likely clogged up. Please urgently address this by coming to our office, an urgent care, or an emergency room to have the catheter flushed or exchanged.
Is it normal to feel like I have to pee all the time while having a urinary catheter?
Almost all patients experience the feeling like they have to urinate when having an indwelling foley catheter. In most cases, your will get used to this feeling, however, some patients may require medications that decrease this, at times, annoying sensation.
May I take a shower with the catheter?
Yes. You may shower with the catheter and bag in place or disconnect the bag from the catheter by grasping the catheter and tubing from the bag and gently separating them. Pull on the bag, not the catheter, to disconnect. Wash the catheter tubing with soap and water as you shower. Do not irrigate the inner part of the catheter with any soap or cleaning agents.
Anything I may do to keep the urinary bag clean?
Yes. You may rinse the bag out with a mild solution of 1 part vinegar and 10 parts water. This will help prevent odors and keep the bag clean. Wash the tubing with soap and water as you shower or wash and rinse well. It is important to keep this clean.
I am seeing blood in the urine, is that ok?
You may have some pink-tinged urine in the bag, depending upon the reason for your catheter. Cranberry-colored or tea-colored urine is ok but if the urine starts to get bright red or thick like tomato soup consistency, please call the office at 954-463-6408 and let us know of your situation AND either come to our office or the closest urgent care/emergency department.
Its not uncommon to have catheter problems. We are happy to have our patients stop by the office at any time that we are open as a walk-in to fix any catheter-related issues so that you don’t have to spend hours in the urgent care or the emergency room. Thus, you don’t have to wait for us to call you back if you are having a problem with your catheter. Just come to the office as soon as you can! We are glad to help!