Caring for the Urinary Catheter


General Catheter Information

  • A urinary catheter is a slender rubber tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine. There is a balloon on the end of the catheter to hold it in the correct place. The catheter may remain in place for hours or up to 6 weeks depending on the appropriate management by your physician.
  • You will go home with the catheter in place, draining to a collection bag. There are 2 types of collection bags, referred to as leg bags and overnight bags. Both bags should be emptied when they are half full. I encourage all patients to wear the leg bag with both straps above the knee on the thigh to minimize the risk of tugging on the catheter. The leg bag is for daytime use only in order to provide you with easier mobility. At night, you should change to the larger overnight bag to rest better and help prevent infection or overflow.

Guidelines to Catheter Care

  • Do NOT pull or allow tension to be placed on the catheter at anytime as this may damage the muscle that provides you with urinary control. It may also cause pain and bleeding.
  • Always keep the drainage bag lower than your bladder in order to prevent urinary flow from returning into the bladder and prevent infection. If you are using the leg bag, do not lay down for periods longer than one hour and please release both leg straps to allow the bag to drain.
  • Do NOT puncture, cut or clamp the catheter as this may damage the catheter and require replacement.
  • Drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. Your urine should be clear to light yellow to indicate appropriate hydration.
  • Empty the drainage bags when half full to minimize the weight of the bag and risk of infection.
  • Daily cleansing around the catheter is necessary. The shower is the easiest time and place to do this daily. Do not take a bath as long as the catheter is in place.

Emptying the Collection Bags

  • Wash your hands
  • Open the valve as instructed on the small leg bag or open the clamp on the larger overnight bag and completely drain the urine. Do not touch the end of the drainage spout with your hands as this may increase risk of infection.
  • Once the bag is completely drained, close the valve of the leg bag or re-clamp the drainage spout of the overnight bag.
  • Wash your hands again.

Changing the Collection Bags

  • Wash your hands
  • Empty the collection bag
  • Without pulling on the catheter, carefully disconnect the catheter from the drainage bag and connect to the new drainage bag appropriately. You may pinch the catheter closed with your fingers to minimize risk of urine leakage. Do not touch the end of the drainage spout with your hands as this may increase risk of infection.
  • In order to keep the tips of the tubing for either bag clean, please replace the cap or use saran wrap or foil to cover the end when not in use. This will greatly minimize the risk of infection.

Caring for the Collection Bag

  • Gently wash in cool (not hot) water after emptying completely.
  • Rinse the bag inside and out with a solution of one (1) tablespoon of vinegar in one (1) quart of cool water. Another cleaning solution that may be used is 5 ounces of cold water and one ounce of bleach. Carefully pour either solution into the bag and agitate for 30 seconds.
  • Empty the bag, leave the drainage spout open and allow to air dry.
  • To minimize risk of infection, wash the area around the catheter at least twice a day using warm soap and water.
  • Never pull on the catheter or attempt to remove it yourself.
  • Apply antibacterial ointment (Neosporin or Bacitracin) to the tip of the penis where it meets the catheter twice a day to lubricate the catheter and improve comfort only if needed.
  • ALWAYS keep slack in the catheter and keep the tubing free of kinks or loops. This will ensure appropriate drainage and minimize trauma to the muscle that will provide your urinary control after the catheter is removed.
  • Drink at least 6-8 cups of water every day to encourage urine production.

Call us immediately if:

  • Urinary drainage from the catheter stops for longer than 2 hours
  • Temperature greater than 101F.