How Do I Care for an Indwelling Catheter?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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An indwelling catheter, or a catheter that is left in the body for a prolonged period of time, requires special care in order to prevent infection and other complications. Drinking plenty of fluids and using proper cleanliness techniques are highly important when caring for an indwelling catheter. The bag that is used to collect the urine must be changed frequently and should be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly as directed by the doctor. The catheter itself must be replaced periodically, and any potential signs of infection should be reported to a doctor right away. Any questions or concerns about proper care of an indwelling catheter on an individual basis should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Urinary output should usually be at least two quarts per day for those who have an indwelling catheter. This typically means that the patient should drink at least four quarts of liquid per day. Any changes in the amount of urinary output, color, or odor should be reported to a doctor for further evaluation. If small particles that resemble egg shell fragments develop at the end of the catheter, a doctor should be notified.


Proper cleanliness can help to avoid infection. The genital area should be carefully washed at least twice per day, and sterile gloves should be worn when caring for the indwelling catheter. The collection bag should be cleaned with an approved sanitizing solution as instructed by the medical staff. A mixture of bleach and water is normally used, and the bag should be allowed to completely dry before using again.

The catheter itself is usually changed every two to four weeks. The patient will be instructed on how to change it at home in most instances. If necessary, it can be changed at the doctor's office. If the catheter becomes plugged or blocked, it must be changed right away.

It is important to always position the catheter bag below the bladder so that urine does not back up and move back into the bladder. Paper tape is generally used to tape the catheter to the leg, and the method of taping is slightly different for men and women. All prescribed medications should be taken exactly as prescribed by the doctor. A complete urine workup is normally recommended every few months for those with an indwelling catheter and is usually performed as an outpatient procedure.


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