Catheters

Whether you have an indwelling, intermittent or suprapubic catheter for a few days, weeks, or long-term, we’ve pulled together the answers to some common questions around catheters.

Please note the information supplied is general in nature and you should consult your medical practioner for individual advice.

Top Catheter Questions

I’m wearing a catheter for the first time. How long do I leave it in?

It all depends on what type of catheter you are wearing.

Intermittent catheters are in/out catheters.

Short-term catheters can be worn for up to 28 days depending on what the catheters are made of:

  • Bardia, latex rubber and PVC catheters = 7 days
  • Teflon = 28 days
  • Silicone, hydrogel, silver = up to 84 days

I’m wearing a catheter for the first time. How long do I leave it in?

It all depends on what type of catheter you are wearing.

Intermittent catheters are in/out catheters.

Short-term catheters can be worn for up to 28 days depending on what the catheters are made of:

  • Bardia, latex rubber and PVC catheters = 7 days
  • Teflon = 28 days
  • Silicone, hydrogel, silver = up to 84 days

Can I re-use my catheter? If I can, how do I clean and sterilise it?

Cliny is a popular reuseable catheter brand for intermittent use, all others are for single use only. A catheter must be thoroughly rinsed prior to use. The Cliny comes with a re-useable catheter container and you can make up a disinfectant e.g. miltons1:80 or diluted vinegar in the container. Please see packaging for instructions and remember to check with your health professional on the suitability of different catheters for your condition.

How do you know if you are wearing a catheter properly?

Catheters take some getting used to at first. You should follow all the instructions your doctor has given you – your healthcare professional is your first point of contact if you have any specific questions or concerns.

In general, you’re wearing a catheter properly if it’s not pulling. So always secure a catheter with a catheter strap or securement device.

For men. Is it normal to have pain in your penis while a catheter is in?

Some men can experience pain and discomfort in their penis while using a catheter. It is not normal and any pain should be discussed with your doctor or healthcare professional.

When I catheterise sometimes I have a small trace of blood on the tip. Why?

A small trace of blood on the tip of the catheter is usually due to slight trauma during insertion. Use a water based lubricant or a self-lubricating catheter when catheterising. Gently insert the catheter. Providing that you are gentle you will not do any damage. If there is bleeding that becomes heavy or persistent contact your nurse or doctor.

I have an indwelling catheter. Sometimes I have urine leakage. Would a bigger catheter stop this?

It is important to find out why the catheter is leaking. It is quite rare for the catheter to be faulty. Possible causes for leakage are catheter blockage or bladder spasm. If bladder spasm is occurring a larger catheter may actually increase bladder spasm and leakage and of course a blocked catheter should be changed.

What are the risks of wearing a catheter?? 

The most common problem occurring with catheters is a bladder infection, also know as a UTI.

To avoid this, always ensure you:

  • drink at least 2 litres of fluid a day (unless otherwise advised by your doctor)
  • keep bowels regular
  • secure catheter and leg bag well
  • change bags weekly

Can I exercise and travel with my catheter in place? 

Having a catheter in place shouldn’t limit your ability to exercise and travel.

Tips for exercising and travelling with catheter in place, include:

  • Shop around. There are lots of special products made for travelling with a catheter, for example a leg bag that fits under shorts, catheter valves or even a discreet means of emptying the bag when an accessible toilet is not available.
  • No champagne on the plane. It’s important not to drink lots of alcohol when you fly as altitude dehydrates the body. This can cause catheter blockages.
  • Extra luggage. Connecting a night bag to your day bag then discreetly placing it under your seat in a plastic carrier bag is a great solution for worry-free long trips.
  • Take spares. Don’t forget to take spare catheter equipment with you, just in case the catheter needs changing while you’re away (especially if you go on holiday or a long journey).
  • Modify your workout. It’s important to keep fit to maintain better continence, however, if you’re used to high impact sports you may need to modify your exercise routine a little. If you’re a jogger, switch to walking. If aerobics is your thing, be sure to void just before the class. You can also use pads to give you extra protection.

How do I know if there’s a problem with my catheter? 

If you have any specific concerns, speak to your doctor or urology nurse as soon as possible. However, here’s our list of symptoms to keep an eye on.

  • Check it out. Regularly look for inflammation or signs of infection in the area around your catheter, such as pus or irritated, swollen, red, or tender skin. Check for any kinking or pulling of your catheter.
  • Feeling discomfort? You may need a different size or type catheter.
  • Feeling pain? You’re unlikely to feel persistent pain (you might feel a slight twinge immediately after catheterisation). If you’re experiencing pain that won’t go away, contact your healthcare professional.
  • Dark, offensive urine. Some medications can affect the colour of your urine, however, dark, offensive urine may be a sign of infection. Try to increase your fluid intake. If you start to have bladder pain and the colour and odour of your urine does not improve, consult your nurse. Don’t be alarmed but do mention any concerns you may have.
  • Blockages. If your catheter drains no urine for 2-3 hours (particularly if you’re having a normal intake of fluid) and you experience abdominal discomfort check there are no kinks in the catheter, bag or tubing and that the bag is below the level of your bladder. If all is correct and the problem persists, call your doctor.

A friend told me that there was a tap available that could be connected to my catheter so that I don’t have to wear a drainage bag. Is this correct?

A catheter facilitates drainage of the bladder. A catheter valve (tap) may be used providing that your bladder can hold a reasonable quantity of urine without discomfort or leakage.

However, a full assessment by your nurse is necessary as valves are unsuitable for some patients. Manual dexterity along with sensation or an awareness of the need to release the catheter valve is required so that the bladder doesn’t become over distended. Catheter valves are usually not suitable for those with uncontrolled detrusor (urinae muscle) overactivity (which might cause urine to bypass), ureteric reflux or renal impairment.

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