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Urinary catheter care
An indwelling Foley catheter remains in place continuously. To keep the catheter from slipping out, it has a balloon on the end that is inflated with sterile water once the end is inside the bladder.Illustration of a Foley catheter.

An indwelling urinary catheter is a flexible plastic tube that is inserted through the opening that carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body (urethra), into the bladder, to drain urine. The tube is kept in place by a small balloon that is inflated once the tube is securely in the bladder. Urine drains into a bag that is attached to the thigh.

A urinary catheter is used when you cannot urinate by yourself. This may occur because of medical conditions, such as prostate enlargement and incontinence, or after surgery for prostate cancer. Urinary catheters are also used when the lower part of the body is paralyzed. Your health professional will decide how long you need to have the catheter.

To care for your urinary catheter at home:

  • Make sure that urine is flowing out of the catheter into the drainage bag.
  • Check the area around the urethra for inflammation or signs of infection, such as irritated, swollen, red or tender skin at the insertion site or drainage around the catheter.
  • Keep the urinary drainage bag below the level of the bladder.
  • Make sure that the urinary drainage bag does not drag and pull on the catheter.

Caring for your catheter

If your health professional has given you specific instructions on caring for your urinary catheter, be sure to follow them. Always wash your hands before and after caring for your catheter.

  • Clean the area around the drainage tube twice each day.
    • Use soap and water to carefully wash around the drainage tube.
    • Rinse well and dry with a clean towel.
    • Do not tug or pull on the drainage tube
    • Unless you have been instructed otherwise, you may take a shower wearing your urinary catheter.
  • Do not apply powder or lotion to the catheter insertion site.
  • You may wrap a small piece of gauze around the area where the cather comes out of your body. Change the gauze if it feels wet. Use a new piece of gauze each time you clean your catheter.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to keep producing urine. You should drink at least 8 glasses of water or other fluids each day.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse while wearing an indwelling cather.
  • Prevent constipation.
    • Make sure you drink enough fluids. Most adults should drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water, noncaffeinated beverages, or fruit juice each day.
    • Include fruits, vegetables, and fiber in your diet each day.
    • Try a stool softener, such as Colace, if your stools are very hard.
  • Keep the drainage bag below the level of the bladder.
    • At night you may wish to hang the bag on the side of your bed.
    • Do not allow the bag to drag and pull on the catheter.
  • Check the drainage tube frequently to make sure it is not kinked.
  • Do not pull or tug on your catheter.

Draining the urine collection bag

The bag that collects urine may be strapped to your thigh. You will need to empty the bag at regular intervals, whenever it is half-full, and at bedtime. Be sure to wash your hands before and after emptying urine from your collection bag.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If you are emptying another person's collection bag you may wish to wear disposable gloves. Wash your hands before you put on the gloves and after you remove them.
  • Unfasten the tube from the drainage bag.
  • Fasten the tubing clamp and remove the drainage cap.
  • Drain the urine into the toilet. You may also drain the urine into another container and then empty it into the toilet. Avoid touching the tubing or drainage cap on the toilet, the collection container, or the floor.
  • If your health professional has instructed you to measure the amount of urine, do so before you have emptied the urine into the toilet.
  • Replace the drainage cap, close the clamp, and refasten the collection tube to the drainage bag.
  • Refasten the collection tube to the drainage bag.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

When to call a health professional

If your health professional has given you instructions about when to notify him or her, be sure to follow those instructions. Call your health professional if:

  1. No urine or very little urine is flowing into the collection bag for 4 or more hours.
  2. No urine or very little urine is flowing into the collection bag and you feel like your bladder is full.
  3. You have new pain in your abdomen, pelvis, legs, or back.
  4. Your urine has changed color, is very cloudy, looks bloody, or has large blood clots in it.
  5. The insertion site becomes very irritated, swollen, red, or tender, or you have pus draining from the catheter insertion site.
  6. Your urine has a foul odor.
  7. Urine is leaking from the insertion site.
  8. You have a fever of 100F (37.8C) or higher or back or flank pain.
  9. You develop nausea, vomiting, or shaking chills.

    page last updated May, 2008

You can discuss Foley Catheter's with men who are using them at CancerMatch cancer  survivor social network  and  at  OutWithCancer lgbt cancer survivor social network .

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information last updated on November, 2006