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A step-by-step guide to the procedure for inserting an indwelling urinary catheter into a female patient. This article is the second in a six-part series on urinary catheters. It gives a step-by-step guide to the procedure for inserting an indwelling urinary catheter into a female patient.


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Catheters may be inserted as an in-and-out procedure for immediate drainage, left in with a self-retaining device for short-term drainage as during surgeryor left indwelling for long-term drainage in patients with chronic urinary retention. Patients of all ages may require urethral catheterization, but those who are elderly or chronically ill are more likely to require indwelling catheters, which carry their own independent risks.

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A urinary catheter is a flexible tube for draining urine from the bladder. It may be necessary for a person to use a urinary catheter if they have difficulty passing urine naturally. This article outlines the different types of urinary catheter and provides advice on how to avoid side effects. A doctor may recommend a urinary catheter for a person who has difficulties when urinating.

Reasons for needing a catheter can include:. The intermittent catheter, or a standard catheter, is a thin, flexible tube that a person temporarily inserts into their bladder through the urethra.

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The external end of the tube may be left open, allowing the urine to drain into a receptacle. Another option is to attach the tube to an external drainage bag, which collects the urine.

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Once a person has emptied their bladder, they need to remove the catheter. It is necessary to remove the old catheter and insert a new one several times per day to empty the bladder. Urinary tract infections UTIs are a common potential side effect of using an intermittent catheter. The risk of developing a UTI increases with longer-term use of the catheter. According to Dr. Tomas L. Grieblinga professor of urology at the University of Kansas, intermittent catheters are less likely to cause infections than indwelling catheters.

An indwelling catheter is similar to an intermittent catheter but remains in place for a period of days or weeks.

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One end of the indwelling catheter has a deflated balloon attached. A healthcare provider will insert this end into the bladder and then inflate the balloon with sterile water to hold the catheter in place. Indwelling catheters typically drain into a collection bag. A person can strap the bag to the inner thigh or attach it to a stand in a position lower than the bladder. It is important to empty a drainage bag before it becomes full. For most people, this will mean emptying the bag every 2—4 hours.

Urethral catheterization in men

A person should also attach a clean, unused drainage bag twice per day and attach a larger bag at night. Some indwelling catheters use a valve instead of a bag. Keeping the valve closed allows the bladder to fill up. A person can then open the valve to empty their bladder and drain the urine out into a receptacle.

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Some people find this more convenient than using a drainage bag. Many people find suprapubic catheters more comfortable than urethral catheters. They are also less likely to cause an infection than a urethral catheter. It is quite common for people with indwelling catheters to experience bladder spasms. This occurs when the bladder attempts to pass out the balloon section of the catheter. A doctor may prescribe medications to reduce the frequency and intensity of these spasms.

People with an indwelling catheter may notice debris in the catheter tube.

What’s the difference between male and female catheters?

Though normal, these mineral deposits can sometimes block the catheter and prevent drainage. It is essential for a person to notify a healthcare provider immediately if their catheter becomes blocked, or if they are passing blood clots or large pieces of debris. Long-term use of the indwelling catheter can cause pain and discomfort.

It is important to discuss this with a doctor, who will be able to provide or advise on appropriate pain relief.

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Some males have the option of using an external catheter. This is a condom-like device that fits over the penis. A tube attached to the catheter collects urine into a drainage bag. Doctors usually recommend external catheters for males with incontinence who do not experience urinary blockages or retention and can use the catheter themselves.

Because external catheters do not enter the urethra, they tend to cause very little discomfort. Compared with indwelling catheters, they are also less likely to cause a UTI. Although external catheters for females do exist, they are rare in clinical settings due to concerns over their safety and effectiveness. These catheters are generally poor at collecting urine and can cause damage to the surrounding skin and vaginal mucosa.

Uses and types of urinary catheter

Some people may find living with a catheter challenging and uncomfortable at first. However, as people become more accustomed to the catheter, they generally find that it has less impact on their daily lives. This section provides tips on how to prevent and overcome some of the possible complications of catheter use. The main disadvantage of using a catheter is that it can allow certain bacteria to enter the body and cause infection. The risk of infection is highest when using an indwelling catheter. It is possible for a person using a urinary catheter to carry out most of their regular activities.

A doctor will advise when it is safe for a person to working, exercising, or having sex. Many people who use a catheter are concerned about the effect that it may have on their sex life. Generally, however, people with an intermittent or suprapubic catheter can have sex as normal. Those with a urethral catheter may find sex more difficult, but it is still possible. Males who use an external catheter can usually remove the sheath during sex or place a standard condom over the top of it. In some cases, it is possible to temporarily remove the tube and drainage bag.

Urinary incontinence

People who use a drainage bag with their catheter may wish to talk to their healthcare provider about the possibility of switching to a valve system. This can make sex easier and more comfortable.

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A urinary catheter is an important aid for people who have difficulty passing urine. There are several different types available, and a person should talk to their doctor about the type that is best suited to their needs. A common complication of using any type of catheter is an increased risk of UTIs.

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However, a person can reduce this risk by practicing good personal hygiene and catheter care, as well as learning how to use the equipment correctly. People should consider talking to a medical professional if they experience any persistent pain or discomfort associated with the catheter. They can offer advice on how to make living with a catheter more comfortable.

Urinary hesitation occurs when a person has difficulty starting or maintaining a urine stream. Learn about the common causes here. A urinary tract infection is a painful condition that has a variety of symptoms, including frequent urination accompanied by a burning feeling. It is usually best to go to the bathroom when the urge hits, but sometimes life gets in the way. Here, learn about the possible complications of…. Leukocytes are white blood cells that help protect people from infection. They are not usually present in the urine, so when they are present, it can….

Suprapubic catheters empty urine from the bladder via an incision in the belly, instead of the urethra. They can be used, for example, if the urethra….

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Uses and types of urinary catheter. Medically reviewed by Gerhard Whitworth, R. Uses Intermittent catheter Indwelling catheters External catheters Living with a catheter Summary A urinary catheter is a flexible tube for draining urine from the bladder. Share on Pinterest A person may need a urinary catheter if they have an injury to the urethra, an enlarged prostate, or kidney stones. Intermittent catheter. Indwelling catheters.

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Share on Pinterest An indwelling catheter will remain in place for days or weeks. External catheters. Living with a catheter. Scientists translate brain waves of man with paralysis into words. Foods that boost metabolism: What does the science say? Related Coverage. Urinary hesitancy: Causes in males and females. Medically reviewed by Emelia Arquilla, DO. How can you stop a chronic UTI? Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, M. Is it safe to hold your pee? What do leukocytes in the urine mean? Medically reviewed by Judith Marcin, M.

What to expect with a suprapubic catheter.