Treatments and tests

Caring for your catheter

Caring for your self-intermittent catheter

If you are performing self-intermittent catheterisation, you will need to take care to:

  • Immediately rinse your catheter after use under running water. If this is difficult at the time then take it home to clean.
  • Wash the catheter in water that has been boiled and cooled and a mild liquid soap.
  • Rinse well with cooled, boiled water to remove all traces of soap.
  • Flick the catheter dry. Avoid touching the end which goes into your urethra.

Caring for your suprapubic or urinary catheter

It is important to clean and care for your catheter according to the instructions given to you by your health professional.

Your drainage system

If you have a suprapubic or indwelling urinary catheter a closed system is formed when the catheter and drainage bag are joined together.

A leg bag is held in place with leg straps or a bag holder and concealed under your clothing.

This collects your urine during the day and needs to be emptied at regular intervals.

Your leg bag is sterile when it is attached and is usually worn until the catheter is changed and a new sterile leg bag is attached. The bag should remain attached to your leg at all times.

At night, a larger capacity bag or bottle is connected to the open drainage tap of the leg bag allowing urine to collect for a longer period.

You need to make sure the urine bag or bottle is kept below the level of the bladder.

There are many types of drainage bags available with different opening and closing taps.

If the one you are using is causing you problems, ask your doctor or nurse for advice.

Leg bags can be secured to your thigh, knee or calf area, depending on the length of drainage tubing on the leg bag.

The leg bag is best left secured to your leg during the night to prevent trauma.

Your nurse will show you:

  • the correct position to wear your leg bag
  • how to secure it using either a bag holder or straps
  • how to connect your overnight drainage bag or bottle.

Empty your leg bag at regular intervals to avoid it becoming too full and heavy, which may pull on your catheter.

This should occur every 2 to 3 hours or when the bag is about half to three-quarters full.

Ensure the catheter is attached to your inner leg (thigh or calf) using an adhesive (see figure 1) or strap type of fixation device (see figure 2). 

Figure 3 and 4 Diagram showing a catheter attached a person’s upper thigh using an adhesive

Correct positioning will ensure that the catheter is comfortable and, in males, will not cause pressure or discomfort at the tip of the penis.

Males prone to reflex erections may be advised to attach the catheter to their abdomen. This will prevent pressure on the tip of the penis if an erection occurs.

It is recommended that you change the position of the bag from one leg to the other every day.

Changing your leg drainage bag

It is important that you know how to correctly change your leg drainage bag.

The leg bag can stay in place until the catheter is changed.

Sometimes the bag may need to be changed more frequently because of damage or odour.

Make sure you always have a spare bag at home.

To change your leg bag:

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.
  2. Release the bag from your leg by undoing the straps or removing it from the bag holder. Wash and dry your hands.
  3. Open the packet of your new drainage bag ready to be connected.
  4. Using soapy water, wipe around the area where the catheter connects to the bag.
  5. Pinch the end of the catheter with your fingers, so that no urine can drain out, and gently disconnect the bag. Put this bag aside.
  6. Remove the plastic cover from the tip of the new bag and immediately connect it to the drainage port of your catheter. Always take the bag to the catheter not the catheter to the bag.
  7. Re-secure your new leg bag to your leg using straps or your leg bag holder.
  8. Empty the urine from your old leg bag into the toilet and rinse it out. Wrap it in newspaper, place in a plastic bag, secure it and put it in the rubbish bin.
  9. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

Overnight drainage bag or bottle

Your overnight drainage bag is bigger in volume (2 L) and tubing than your leg bag.

Alternatively you can use an overnight bottle which holds 4 L.

Night bags or bottles are connected to either your leg bag or catheter valve at bedtime.

This enables you to sleep during the night without having to wake up to empty your leg bag or catheter valve.

It is important that you use the overnight drainage bag or bottle.

If your leg bag becomes full and you do not wake up, there is a chance that your bladder will become full and the urine may reflux (flow) back to your kidneys.

This may cause infection which can make you very unwell.

To attach your overnight drainage bag or bottle:

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.
  2. Empty the urine from your leg bag or bladder if using a catheter valve.
  3. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.
  4. Remove the plastic cover from the top of the night bag or bottle and put it into a clean, dry container until morning.
  5. Connect the white tip of the night bag or bottle into the drainage tap at the base of your leg bag or catheter valve.
  6. Check that the drainage tap on your night bag is closed.
  7. Open the drainage tap on your leg bag or catheter valve. This will allow urine to drain directly into your night bag or bottle.
  8. Place your night bag on its stand (if used) or into a clean bucket, kept for this purpose only.
  9. Position the night bag or bottle below the level of your bladder. This will enable you to move in bed without the risk of pulling on your catheter (see figure 5).
  10. Make sure the night bag drainage tap is off the floor (see figure 3).
  11. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

Diagram showing a catheter system attached to a night bag, that has been correctly placed stable position.

Removal and cleaning of overnight drainage bag or bottle

The night bag or bottle is reusable and therefore needs to be cleaned after each use.

To remove your overnight drainage bag or bottle:

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.
  2. Close the drainage tap of your leg bag or catheter valve.
  3. Gently disconnect your night bag or bottle from your leg bag or catheter valve.
  4. Empty the contents of your night bag or bottle into the toilet.
  5. Place the white tip under running water and wash your night bag or bottle using gentle liquid hand soap. Use warm not hot water to reduce the risk of scalding. Do not use detergent such as washing up liquid.
  6. Rinse the bag or bottle with clean water and then rinse again with a vinegar solution (1 part vinegar to 8 parts water) to reduce odour.
  7. Put the plastic cover back onto the white tip of your night bag or bottle tubing and leave the bag to dry in a clean place, such as over the shower rail, until it is required again. Make sure that the drainage tap is open and not touching the floor.
  8. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

Prior to reusing your night bag lay it on a flat surface. Flatten the bag from the end of the tubing and towards the drainage tap. This removes any air inside the night bag which may cause an air lock. Close the drainage tap. 

Catheter valves

Some people who have a catheter inserted into their bladder are better suited to a catheter valve.

A catheter valve is a tap which is inserted into the drainage port of your catheter.

Using a catheter valve helps maintain bladder health.

It allows your bladder to fill with urine, thus giving you the sensation of having a full bladder (if you have feeling) and needing to urinate.

To empty the bladder, the catheter valve tap is opened and urine is allowed to drain.

There is no need to try and pass urine in the normal way as you may cause bypassing of urine down the outside of the catheter.

To allow urine drainage overnight, a night bag/bottle is attached to the catheter valve.

A catheter valve is not suitable for everyone.

Your doctor or nurse will advise you whether a valve is the right management for you.

Changing your catheter valve

The catheter valve is sterile when it is attached to the catheter after insertion.

Ideally it should remain in place until the next catheter change when a new sterile valve will be placed.

It is important that you always have a spare catheter valve in case of emergency.

To change your catheter valve:

  1. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.
  2. Using soapy water, wipe around the area where the catheter connects to the valve.
  3. Open the packet containing the new catheter valve and check the tap is in the closed position. Avoid touching the white end which goes into your catheter.
  4. Pinch the ends of your catheter together to prevent urine leakage and remove the old catheter valve from your catheter.
  5. Put this to one side and insert the new catheter valve into the catheter.
  6. Wrap the old catheter valve in newspaper and place it in the rubbish bin.
  7. Wash and dry your hands thoroughly.

Supplies and storage of equipment

The nurse in the hospital will give you some equipment to take home with you.

However, after this it is your responsibility to obtain further supplies, as needed, of:

  • catheters
  • drainage bags
  • catheter valves.

Your nurse will give you a list of suppliers where you can buy your catheter equipment.

Ask your nurse if you are eligible for funding to assist with your equipment.

  • All equipment should be stored together in a clean, dry box, drawer or cupboard.
  • Your catheter should be stored flat.
  • Keep your catheter away from children and pets.
  • Keep your catheter away from fires and direct sunlight.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222


Acknowledgements

Royal Perth Hospital


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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