Thumbnail image of: Urinary System: Illustration

Bladder Catheter: Self Catheterization

What are bladder catheter and self catheterization?

A bladder, or urinary, catheter is a thin, hollow tube inserted into your urethra and bladder. The catheter drains urine from your bladder into a bag. Two common types of catheters are intermittent and indwelling catheters.

  • An intermittent, or short-term, catheter is inserted to drain the bladder or collect a specimen and removed as soon as the flow of urine has stopped.
  • An indwelling catheter is left in the bladder for as long as it is needed. A small inflated balloon at the tip of the catheter helps the catheter stay in the bladder.

Self catheterization is a way for you to drain urine from your bladder with an intermittent catheter. You put the catheter into your urethra to drain the bladder and then remove the catheter when the bladder is empty. The urethra is the tube in your body that drains urine from the bladder.

Why is this done?

You may need to use a catheter if you cannot empty your bladder normally. You may need to use it for a short time after surgery. Or you may need to use it because you have an injury or a disease that affects the nerves or muscles that help you control your bladder.

The bladder needs to be drained regularly because:

  • It’s uncomfortable when it is full. In some cases a full bladder may cause severe symptoms.
  • The urine is more likely to get infected if it isn’t drained.
  • If the bladder is not drained, the bladder and the kidneys may be damaged.

Ask your healthcare provider about your choices for treatment and the risks.

How is it done?

To drain the bladder, you put a slim flexible tube in the bladder. Several different kits are available. The basic procedure is the same, as outlined here.

For men:

  1. Wash your penis and then your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry off. If your kit comes with gloves, put them on.
  2. Put together any parts—for example, you may need to attach the catheter to the collection bag–and lay out everything you will need. Try to keep everything as clean as possible.
  3. If your kit came with a skin cleansing solution, use it to clean the end of the penis where the urine comes out–this is the opening to the urethra, where the catheter will go in.
  4. Lubricate the catheter with the ointment in the kit.
  5. Hold the penis and gently slide the catheter into the urethra. There will be some increased resistance as the catheter goes past the prostate but it should still continue through with steady gentle pressure.
  6. As the catheter enters the bladder, urine will start to flow. Keep moving the catheter into the urethra about 1 more inch and then hold it in that position until the flow of urine stops.
  7. Slowly remove the catheter. This will help drain any urine left in the bladder.
  8. If the catheter is disposable, throw it away. If it is reusable, wash it with soap and water, dry it off, and store it somewhere clean and dry.

For women:

  1. Wash the vulva, which is the area around the vagina and the opening of the urethra. Then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If your kit comes with gloves, put them on.
  2. Put together any parts—for example, you may need to attach the catheter to the collection bag–and lay out everything you will need. Try to keep everything as clean as possible.
  3. If your kit came with a skin cleansing solution, use it to clean the vulva and urethral opening, which is where urine usually comes out and where the catheter will go in. The urethral opening is between the clitoris and the vagina. Use a mirror to find the urethra or ask someone to help you.
  4. Lubricate the catheter with the ointment in the kit.
  5. Gently slide the catheter into the urethra.
  6. Keep guiding the catheter upward into the urethra about 2 or 3 inches until urine starts to flow. Keep moving the catheter into the urethra about 1 more inch and then hold it in that position until the flow of urine stops.
  7. Slowly remove the catheter. This will help drain any urine left in the bladder.
  8. If the catheter is disposable, throw it away. If it is reusable, wash it with soap and water, dry it off, and store it somewhere clean and dry.

Ask your healthcare provider what symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-01-29
Last reviewed: 2013-10-20
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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