A urinary catheter is a flexible plastic tube used to drain urine from the bladder when a person cannot urinate. A doctor will place the catheter into the bladder by inserting it through the urethra. The urethra is 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. Urinary catheters can be used in both men and women. An indwelling catheter is one that stays in for a longer period of time.
A catheter may be needed because of certain medical conditions. These include an enlarged prostate or problems controlling the release of urine. It may be used after surgery on the pelvis or urinary tract. Urinary catheters are also used when the lower part of the body is paralyzed.
If you are helping a loved one with a catheter, try to be as relaxed as possible. Caring for a catheter can be embarrassing for both of you. This may be especially true if you are caring for someone of the opposite sex. If you are not embarrassed or upset, the person may feel more comfortable.
Always wash your hands before and after handling a catheter. Follow all of the instructions the doctor has given. Also:
You will need to empty the bag regularly. It is best to empty the bag when it's about half full or at bedtime. If the doctor has asked you to measure the amount of urine, do that before you empty the urine into the toilet.
If the doctor has given instructions about when to call him or her, be sure to follow those instructions. Call the doctor if:
After the catheter is taken out:
Also, it is important to know when there is a problem and when to call the doctor. After catheter removal, call the doctor if:
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.