Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Urinary Incontinence Catheter Care

Some people with urinary incontinence will require a catheter in the bladder temporarily or for a long period of time. General measures include:

After Catheter Removal Care

  • Drink plenty of fluids to flush out your urinary system.
  • Use pain medications as prescribed by your urologist.
  • Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for mild pain.

Basic Catheter Care
  • Wash your hands. This helps avoid infection.
  • Gently wash the area (twice a day for men; once a day for women) with soap and water where the catheter enters your body. This may be done in the shower, but not in the bath. Do not take a tub bath while you have a catheter in place.
  • Dry the area gently.
  • Males with a Foley catheter should place a small amount of Bacitracin ointment on a Q-tip and apply it to the tip of the penis where the catheter enters. If you can, do this twice each day. This will help keep the area from becoming infected.

Use of the Leg Bag
If you are up and about, you'll want to use a leg bag to drain your urine. The bag is attached to the end of your catheter and is strapped to your thigh.
Empty your leg bag every 3-4 hours or sooner if it is 1/2-3/4 full.

To empty the bag:
  • Wash your hands.
  • Stand or sit near a toilet or sink
  • Loosen the strap closest to your knee so that the bag hangs over the toilet (or sink).
  • Push lever on the bottom of the bag out and down.
  • Drain the urine.
  • Close the lever.
  • Wash your hands.

Night Drainage Bags
Before you go to sleep at night, you should change your drainage bag to a night bag (see next section). When you aren't using your leg bag, it should be washed out with soap and water and hung up to dry. This should be done once a day.

The night drainage bag is larger than the leg bag and holds more urine. It is designed to hang on the side of a bed or chair, or to be attached to any loose-fitting pants (such as sweat pants). Remember, your urine drains into the bag by gravity, so you need a bag that will be below the level of your bladder. So whenever you are spending a lot of time lying down or sitting still, the night bag will work better. The night bag should always be used at night while you are sleeping.

Using a night drainage bag:
  • Wash your hands.
  • Empty the leg bag as explained above.
  • Pinch off the catheter with your fingers.
  • Disconnect the leg bag.
  • Clean the tip of the night bag with an alcohol swab, and then connect the night bag to the catheter.
  • Tape the catheter to your thigh so that the bag doesn't "pull" on the catheter when you lay down. That is, make sure there is some slack above the tape.
  • Wash your hands.
  • When you get into bed, arrange the tubing so that it does not kink or loop.
  • Hang the night bag on the side of your bed, or place it on the floor. Be sure to keep the bag below the level of your bladder at all times.
  • In the morning, wash your hands and empty the night bag into the toilet.
  • Clean the tip of the leg bag with an alcohol swab.
  • Pinch off the catheter, and re-connect the leg bag.
  • Rinse out the night bag with soap and water, and hang it up to dry.
  • Wash your hands again.

Other Catheter Tips
  • Drink 4-6 glasses of water a day to keep your kidneys and bladder flushed out.
  • You may shower, but do not take a tub bath.
  • You may feel "bladder spasms" while your catheter is in place.
    • This might feel like a cramp or a sudden, strong urge to urinate.
    • You might feel it when you are moving your bowels, which is normal.
    • If spasms are causing a lot of discomfort, let your doctor know.
  • Take any prescribed medications.
  • Keep scheduled appointments.

Continue to Urinary Incontinence Kegel Exercises

Last Updated: Nov 24, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Urinary Incontinence References
  1. Nuotio M, Jylha M, Luukkaala T, Tammela TL. Urgency, urge incontinence and voiding symptoms in men and women aged 70 years and over. BJU Int. 2002 Mar;89(4):350-5. [11872023]
  2. Siegel SW, Catanzaro F, Dijkema HE, Elhilali MM, Fowler CJ, Gajewski JB, Hassouna MM, Janknegt RA, Jonas U, van Kerrebroeck PE, Lycklama a Nijeholt AA, Oleson KA, Schmidt RA. Long-term results of a multicenter study on sacral nerve stimulation for treatment of urinary urge incontinence, urgency-frequency, and retention. Urology. 2000 Dec 4;56(6 Suppl 1):87-91. [11114569]
  3. Zinner N, Harnett M, Sabounjian L, Sandage B Jr, Dmochowski R, Staskin D. The overactive bladder-symptom composite score: a composite symptom score of toilet voids, urgency severity and urge urinary incontinence in patients with overactive bladder. J Urol. 2005 May;173(5):1639-43. [15821526]
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