Background on Catheters
A urinary catheter is a device made from rubber or plastic that drains urine from the body. It is inserted by a nurse through the urethra (a tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body) into the bladder (an organ that collects urine).
A Foley catheter stays in the bladder and drains into a bag that is attached to a person's leg, the bed, or a chair. When caring for someone with this kind of catheter (called an indwelling catheter), watch for these things:
- Be sure the tube stays straight and drains properly. Check for kinks in the tubing.
- Be sure the level of urine in the bag increases.
- Be sure the drainage bag is always lower than the bladder.
- Use tape or straps when securing a catheter to someone's inner thigh.
- In males, an erection is a common effect when a catheter is inserted.
- Tell the doctor if blood or sediment (matter that settles to the bottom) appears in the tubing or bag.
NOTE. A Foley catheter greatly increases the risk of infection. It is a last resort to manage incontinence (leaking of urine or inability to control bowel movements).
Care of the Person Who Has a Catheter
- Wash your hands.
- Put on disposable gloves.
- Position the person on his or her back.
- Take care not to pull on the catheter.
- While holding the catheter, wash the area around it with a washcloth.
- To avoid infection, wipe toward the anus, not back and forth.
NOTE. To prevent foul odors due to the growth of bacteria in the urine drainage bag, put a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in the bag when it is emptied.
Changing a Catheter from Straight Drainage to Leg Bag
- Gather supplies--disposable gloves, a bed protector, alcohol wipes, and a leg bag with straps.
- Uncover the end of the catheter and draining tubing; put a towel or other bed protector under this area.
- Disconnect the drainage tubing from the catheter.
- Wipe the attachment tube of the leg bag with an alcohol swab and insert it into the catheter.
- Place the cap attached to the urinary drainage bag over the end of the tubing to keep it clean and prevent urine from leaking out.
- Secure the tubing to the person's leg.
The doctor may prescribe a condom catheter for a male if infections from the indwelling catheter become a chronic problem. The catheter fits over the penis like a condom. Leakage is often a problem with this type of aid. It is extremely important that a condom catheter not be secured too tightly, which can result in serious injury. Other products for male incontinence are available that are less constricting, such as Bio Derm's Liberty Pouch, which uses "skin friendly" adhesive.
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