What is a urinary catheter?
A urinary catheter is a flexible hollow tube inserted in to the bladder to drain urine and this is usually inserted by a doctor or nurse. The catheter is inserted through the urethra (the tube which urine passes through to the outside of the body) or through a man-made channel through the abdominal wall known as suprapubic catheterisation.
The catheter is retained gently in the bladder by inflating a small balloon and can be short term, 2 weeks, or long term up to 12 weeks.
Why do I need a catheter?
There are many reasons why people may need a catheter. The bladder may have lost its ability to contract and empty, there may be an obstruction of the urethra or it may be due to other health related problems.
The need for a catheter may be for a short period of time or it could be permanent.
Your healthcare professional will discuss the need for a catheter, how long it may be needed or you may be given an appointment for a trial without a catheter. The catheter may feel uncomfortable at first and you may feel some urge to pass urine. You may even experience some bladder spasm which may cause urine to leak around the side of the catheter, this usually settles down within 24 to 48 hours.
Securing your catheter
To help prevent pulling or accidental dislodgement of the catheter there are a range of devices available. Elasticated straps can be worn round the thigh or abdomen to help stabilise the catheter or drainage tubes.
Adhesive devices adhere to the skin and a clip helps to stabilise the catheter.
Urine Drainage Bags
A sterile drainage bag which collects urine is secured to the leg using elasticated straps or a sleeve providing discreet storage of urine under clothing. The bag should be emptied when ¾ full and manufacturers recommend a maximum use of 7 days before changing.
The valve allows the bladder to fill with urine and is to be emptied at regular intervals during the day by opening the valve. Manufacturer’s recommendations are up to 7 days usage.
Suspended from a belt around the waist, a larger volume drainage bag. Manufacturer’s guidelines for use up to 28 days before change.
Large capacity urine bag used for overnight drainage which is secured into the end of the tap of the leg bag/catheter valve, the tap is then opened to allow urine to collect in the larger bag overnight. A night stand or bed hanger can help to support the weight of the bag and aid drainage. These bags are normally single use with a new bag each night.
How do I dispose of my used catheter products?
Empty any urine contents down the lavatory or into a collecting receptacle. Wrap the product in a disposal bag. Dispose of in household waste or in accordance with manufacturer’s guidelines.
Practicing good hand hygiene by washing your hands before and after handling catheter equipment and wearing gloves during the procedure is a simple yet effective way to prevent the spread of germs which may cause infection.
The catheter entry site into the body should be washed twice a day using mild soap and water and dried thoroughly. Creams and talcum powder should be avoided as they may affect the material of the catheter or may cause clogging. When bathing or showering your drainage bag should be emptied beforehand and left in place. Always wash your hands before and after draining or changing the urine bag.
Diet and Fluids with a Catheter
It is important to eat a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables and fibre to avoid constipation. If your bowel is full, which happens when you are constipated, it can press on your bladder, reduce urine drainage or may result in leakage around the catheter.
Drink about 1.5 to 2 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid each day unless you have been advised otherwise by your healthcare professional. Avoid excess caffeine, alcohol and fizzy drinks as these may irritate your bladder.
Your urine should be a clear light yellow colour, if it is dark yellow it can suggest that you are not drinking enough.