You will use a catheter (tube) to drain urine from your bladder. You may need a catheter because you have urinary incontinence (leakage), urinary retention (not being able to urinate), surgery that made a catheter necessary, or another health problem.
Urine will drain through your catheter into the toilet or a special container. Your doctor will show you how to use your catheter. After some practice, it will get easier.
Sometimes family members, a school nurse, or others may be able to help you use your catheter.
Your doctor will give you a prescription for the right catheter for you. Generally your catheter may be about 6 inches long, but there are different types and sizes. You can buy catheters at medical supply stores. You will also need small plastic bags and a gel such as K-Y jelly or Surgilube. Do NOT use Vaseline (petroleum jelly).
Ask your doctor how often you should empty your bladder with your catheter. Usually you empty your bladder every 4 to 6 hours, or 4 to 6 times a day. Always empty your bladder first thing in the morning and just before you go to bed at night. You may need to empty your bladder more frequently if you have had more fluids to drink.
You can empty your bladder while sitting on a toilet. Your doctor or nurse can show you how to do this correctly.
Follow these steps to insert your catheter:
Most insurance companies will pay for you to use a sterile catheter for each use. Some kinds of catheters are meant to be used only once, but many catheters can be re-used if they are cleaned correctly.
If you are reusing your catheter, you must clean your catheter every day. Always make sure you are in a clean bathroom. Do NOT let the catheter touch any of the bathroom surfaces (such as the toilet, wall, and floor).
Follow these steps:
Throw away the catheter when it becomes dry and brittle.
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Clean intermittent catheterization - female; CIC - female
Cepedes RD, Gerboc JL. Other therapies for storage and emptying failure. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 75.
Updated by: 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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