Living with a urinary catheter

Looking after the catheter and catheter site

Everyday care of the catheter and drainage bag is essential to reduce the risk of infection. When living with a urethral catheter the precautions include:
  • Cleaning the urethral area (where the catheter comes out) and the catheter itself
  • Using only clean hands to disconnect the drainage bag from the catheter
  • Disconnecting the drainage bag as little as possible
  • Keeping the drainage bag connector as clean as possible and cleaning the drainage bag periodically
  • Using a thin catheter where possible to reduce the risk of harming the urethra during insertion
  • Drinking enough liquid to produce at least two litres of urine every day
John Y and Charles describe what they do every day to look after their catheter:
Some people talked specifically about looking after their suprapubic catheter and keeping the site clean.
Looking after a suprapubic catheter
  • Always wash hands before and after emptying the drainage bag, or before and after emptying the bladder using the valve. The area around the insertion site should be washed with cooled boiled water. Some people find cleaning the catheter site with a sterile saline solution a good way of keeping the area clean.
  • A dressing covers the catheter site after the operation and should be kept in place until it has healed. Although not always necessary, many people prefer to wear a dressing around the catheter site all the time. The type of dressing may vary. A dry gauze dressing is sufficient for some people
  • Do not put any cream or talc around the site.
  • Showers are better than baths as prolonged sitting in water can delay wound healing. For the first few days after the operation, use a waterproof dressing. Once the wound has healed, normal showering is fine but scented products should be avoided as they can irritate the skin.
Some people’s partner or carer changed the dressing every day and cleaned the catheter site. They stressed the importance of washing hands before and after handling the catheter, and cleaning the site with soap and water. A few people said they sometimes had ‘over granulation’ around the catheter site. Over granulation is excessive granulation tissue, which stands above the rest of the skin. A mild topical steroid cream is sometimes used to reduce over granulation.
Ann had had a suprapubic catheter for about 4 months and said she was still having problems with the wound. She has an infection where her catheter is inserted:

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Last reviewed October 2018.


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