Urinary Catheters : Know the Use, Side Effects, Risk Factors And Complications


A hollow, somewhat flexible tube called a urinary catheter is used to collect urine from the bladder and transport it to a drainage bag. There are several sizes and kinds of urinary catheters. They may be created from Silicone, rubber, and plastic (PVC). Catheters may be necessary if you are unable to empty your bladder on your own. Urine can accumulate in the bladder and put a strain on the kidneys if it is not drained. Renal failure brought on by the pressure can be harmful and result in kidney damage that cannot be repaired.

The majority of the time, catheters are required just until you can once again urinate on your own, which is often a brief amount of time. Urinary catheters may be necessary for older people, those with serious illnesses or injuries, and people who are elderly for a very long period or forever.

Uses of Urinary Catheters

If you can relate to any of the following:

urinary incontinence, urine retention, and inability to regulate when you pee.

You could be unable to urinate on your own for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Blood clots in the urine, and kidney or bladder stones, are the causes of restricted urine flow.
  • Surgery to remove your genital organs, such as a hysterectomy or hip replacement, severe prostate gland enlargement injuries to the bladder nerves spinal cord injury.
  • Mental health problems, such as dementia, drugs that make it difficult for your bladder muscles to contract, causing urine to accumulate in your bladder, and spina bifida

Types of Catheters

There are three primary categorizations of catheters:

  • Intravenous catheters
  • Outside catheters
  • Temporary catheters

Intravenous catheters (urethral or suprapubic catheters)

An intravenous catheter rests in the bladder. It may also be known as a Foley catheter. This kind is beneficial for both short-term and long-term use.

Typically, a nurse will use the urethra to implant an in-dwelling catheter into the bladder. In other cases, a small hole in the abdomen is used to place the catheter instead into the bladder. A suprapubic catheter is a name for this kind of internal catheter.

Water is inflated into a small balloon at the catheter's tip to keep the tube from slipping out of the body. When the catheter is removed, the balloon may collapse. 

Outside catheters

A catheter inserted outside the body is known as a condom catheter. It is often required for those with a penis who do not have issues with urine retention but have severe functional or mental impairments, including dementia.

The penis head is covered with a contraption that resembles a condom. The condom device is then connected via a tube to a drainage bag.

Compared to indwelling catheters, these catheters are typically more comfortable and have a lesser risk of infection. Although most condom catheters need to be changed every day, other models are made to last longer. Compared to condom catheters, which must be removed and reapplied every day, they may not cause as much skin discomfort.

A WOCN, or wound, ostomy, and continence nurse, can assist in offering these suggestions.

Short-term catheters (intermittent catheters)

In some circumstances, you might only require a catheter for a little time following surgery, up until the bladder empties. It is vital to take out the temporary catheter after the bladder has emptied. This is referred to as an in-and-out catheter by medical practitioners.

In a residential environment, patients are taught how to insert the catheter by themselves or with assistance from a carer. The procedure can be carried out either through the urethra or a catheterization hole drilled into the lower abdomen.

Risk Factors

Although not all negative effects of using a urinary catheter can be totally avoided, you can lower your risk by following some dietary and hygiene rules and avoiding obstructions in the drainage system of the catheter.

With your doctor, go over the following risk factors:

Not drinking enough water. Dehydration might result from this, and a UTI could follow. Your pee should be pale if you are drinking enough water.

Fiber deficiency in your diet. Consuming adequate high-fibre meals, such as fruits, cereals, and vegetables, will help you maintain regular bowel movements and avoid constipation-related catheter leaks.

Disorganized catheter. Blocks or leaks may also result from the catheter being bent or twisted, as well as from the displacement of the urine bag.

Having trouble keeping the equipment or your skin clean. You may think about requesting in the event that you are unable to do so on your own, a carer can assist in making sure that everything is cleaned often.

Side Effects

While urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the negative effects of urinary catheters that are most frequently reported, there are additionally possible side effects that you may address with your doctor. These consist of:

  • Blood or other material becoming stuck inside the catheter tube, which may result from a clog in the catheter's drainage system
  • Catheter leaking, which may occur from a blockage in the system or by pushing during urination if you are constipated
  • Urethra or bladder injuries (less common)
  • Bladder stones (less common, but may be more likely after long-term catheter use)


Urinary catheters are a crucial tool to assist in emptying your bladder and preventing kidney failure. They are used for a number of medical issues. Depending on your particular needs, your doctor may advise either internal or exterior short-term or long-term catheters.

Urinary catheters are useful, but if they are not cleansed or managed carefully, they can potentially cause negative effects. The most frequent danger of using this kind of catheter is UTIs. If you have any potential symptoms, such as a fever or blood in your urine, you need to consult your doctor straight away.

Aftercare of Catheters

There are both single-use and reusable catheters available. To lower the risk of a UTI using reusable catheters, be sure to thoroughly clean the catheter and the region where it enters the body with soap and water. Only your body has to be cleaned before inserting a one-time-use catheter because they are packaged in sterile materials.

In order to maintain your urine clean or only slightly yellow, you also need to consume a lot of water. This will aid in infection prevention.

At least every eight hours and anytime the bag is full, empty the drainage bag that was used to collect the pee. Fill a small spray bottle with vinegar and water, or bleach and water, to clean the drainage bag. Explore clean intermittent self-catheterization in greater detail.

Complications of Urinary Catheters

The most common reason for urinary tract infections in patients receiving treatment is urinary catheters (UTIs). In order to avoid infections, it is crucial to frequently clean catheters.

A UTI may cause the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the catheter
  • Blood in the urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Murky urine owing to pus
  • Burning of the urethra or vaginal region
  • Low back discomfort and achiness

Additional issues associated with using a urinary catheter include:

  • Bladder stones
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urethral irritation and kidney damage are all symptoms of an allergic response to the catheter's substance, such as latex (with long-term indwelling catheters)
  • Septicemia, or an infection of the kidneys, blood, or urinary system


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Page last reviewed: Mar 21, 2023

Next review due: Mar 21, 2025

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