Overactive Bladder

The Benefits of Intermittent Catheterization

  • What Is Intermittent Catheterization?

    A urinary catheter is a medical device used to empty the bladder when a patient is unable to do so naturally. Catheters usually have a drainage bag to capture the urine. In bedridden patients, the bag may drape over the side of the bed. In ambulatory patients, the bag is usually attached to the leg with elastic bands.

    The bag can be emptied into the toilet as needed. In intermittent catheterization, the patient is instructed to insert and remove the catheter several times a day, eliminating the need to wear a continuously draining catheter.

  • It’s Relatively Easy

    Although it may seem intimidating at first, intermittent catheterization is a fairly simple procedure, once you get the hang of it. Most people are able catheterize themselves. Even children as young as seven or eight years old can be trained to handle catheterization on their own. If you’re not physically able to do it by yourself, a parent or caregiver can help.

  • It’s Effective

    If you can’t empty your bladder on your own, intermittent catheterization is an effective solution to a continuously draining catheter. Leaving urine in your bladder for a long time can lead to a distended bladder or a urinary tract infection. Intermittent catheterization may help keep those problems under control. It may also improve urinary incontinence in some patients. Because you remove the catheter when your bladder is emptied, it frees you up for a more active lifestyle.

  • It’s Safe

    Indwelling, or long-term catheters can have side effects including infection, leaking, blockage, and even bladder spasms. The chance of developing these side effects is reduced with intermittent catheterization. Once you learn how to catheterize yourself, it is fairly unlikely that you’ll hurt yourself in the process. When compared with using an indwelling catheter, you may experience an improved quality of life.

  • Who Can Benefit from Using Intermittent Catheterization?

    Your doctor might recommend intermittent catheterization if you suffer from urinary retention, incontinence, or severe bladder problems that could result in kidney damage. It is also prescribed for people with spina bifida, spinal cord injury, and some neurological conditions. Intermittent catheterization may be used temporarily following certain types of surgery of the prostate, genitals, or after an abdominal hysterectomy.

  • How an Intermittent Catheter Works

    The sterilized catheter, or tube, is inserted into the urethra, which is what connects your genitals to your bladder. Then, you gently guide the tube into your bladder, which will cause urine to flow through the tube and into the bag. When the flow stops, you may need to move the catheter a bit to see if there’s any more urine. Once your bladder is emptied, you can remove the catheter.

    Your healthcare team will instruct you on the proper use of the catheter. Report any difficulties or side effects to your doctor.

  • What’s the Downside of Intermittent Catheterization?

    Depending on your reasons for using catheterization, you may need to measure and record the amount of urine collected. The drainage bag must be properly maintained. You’ll have to keep track of your supplies and make sure you have everything you need on hand.

    It may take some time for men to learn how to insert the catheter beyond the sphincter muscles. Women may have a hard time finding the urethra. Rarely, a catheter may break through a weak part of the urethra and cause bleeding, which requires immediate medical attention.

  • What Else Do I Need to Know?

    Your doctor will advise how many times a day you should use a catheter. Catheters come in a variety of types and sizes. You may be able to buy them at a medical supply store or through mail order. Your doctor can write a prescription for a new, sterile catheter or a reusable catheter that must be sterilized between uses. You may need additional supplies like lubricants and sanitizers. 

    Questions regarding the use of catheters should be directed to your doctor.

     

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