A urostomy bag and a catheter are two different devices that can help drain and collect urine from your body. A urostomy is often permanent, whereas a catheter is not.

If you have certain medical conditions that prevent you from peeing normally, a doctor might recommend a urostomy bag or a catheter. Essentially, these medical tools are used to create alternative ways for urine to leave your body.

With a urostomy bag, doctors first make an opening, called a stoma, in your abdomen. The stoma connects to your urinary tract and allows urine to drain. As the urine travels, it’s collected in a bag that you wear on the outside of your body.

A catheter is a thin, flexible tube that’s inserted into your bladder to drain urine. The urine exits into a collection bag outside your body. Some catheters are temporary, while others are worn long-term.

Read on to learn the difference between urostomy bags and catheters, the risks of each, and why you might need one of these devices.

Some common conditions that may require a urostomy procedure are:

Urinary catheters are often used to drain the bladder before, during, or after surgery or during childbirth if an epidural is given. Sometimes, catheters are also used to deliver medication, such as chemotherapy, directly to your bladder.

You may require a catheter if you have any of the following conditions:

  • urinary incontinence
  • urinary retention, or an inability to empty the bladder when needed
  • an obstruction in the tube that carries urine out of your bladder
  • bladder weakness
  • nerve damage
  • a condition that affects the nerves that control the bladder, such as spina bifida, stroke, spinal injury, or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • conditions that limit your ability to use the bathroom

During urostomy surgery, doctors create an opening in your abdomen, which is called a stoma. The stoma is attached to a part of the urinary tract so urine can leave your body. An ostomy bag collects and stores the urine outside of your body. This procedure is done under general anesthesia.

There are different types of urostomies, including the following two main types:

  • Ileal conduit: Surgeons use a piece of your small intestine to make a new passageway that connects to the stoma. Then, they connect the ureters (which carry urine from your kidney to your bladder) to the piece of intestine. Urine flows from the ureters, through the piece of intestine, and then out to the stoma.
  • Cutaneous ureterostomy: Surgeons attach one or both of a person’s ureters directly to the stoma.

Generally, a urostomy is considered a permanent procedure that can’t be reversed.

A doctor or nurse usually inserts a urinary catheter. The catheter can be placed through the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) or via a small hole in the lower abdomen. Urine flows through the catheter and drains into a bag.

There are three types of urinary catheters:

  • Indwelling catheter: It can be used for a short or long period of time. An indwelling catheter can be inserted through the urethra or lower abdomen and is held in position by an inflated balloon in your bladder.
  • Intermittent self-catheter: This type of catheter is temporarily inserted into your bladder and removed when the bladder is empty.
  • Condom catheter: These catheters can only be used by people with penises. A condom-like device is placed over the penis, and a tube runs from the device to a collection bag.

A urostomy is considered a safe procedure, but some potential risks include:

  • infection
  • reactions to anesthesia
  • blood clots or bleeding
  • pneumonia
  • organ damage
  • blockages
  • bleeding at the stoma
  • skin irritation

A urinary tract infection is the main risk associated with catheters. The device can also cause other difficulties, such as:

Is a urostomy the same as a catheter?

A urostomy isn’t the same as a catheter. For one, a urostomy is a permanent procedure. It involves surgically creating an opening in your abdomen and using parts of existing organs to make new passageways for urine to leave your body, so it doesn’t go through the bladder.

A urinary catheter involves inserting a tube into the bladder to drain urine. It may be used for a few minutes, days, or on a long-term basis. Most types of urinary catheterization don’t require surgery but are performed by a trained professional.

Do you have a bladder if you have a urostomy?

You can still have a bladder if you have a urostomy. Often, the bladder is removed during the same procedure as the urostomy. But, if your bladder is left fully or partially intact, it’s bypassed, so urine can leave your body without going through the bladder.

How do you pee with a urostomy bag?

Your body will still rid itself of urine, but the process will be different. Typically, urine will continuously drain into the ostomy bag. You’ll need to empty your bag about as often as you used to go to the bathroom before your procedure.

A urostomy bag and a catheter are two different devices that can help drain and collect urine from your body. Your doctor might recommend one or the other depending on your medical condition, preferences, and other factors.