What Is a Catheter Plug?

Misty Wiser

A catheter plug is a small cylinder-shaped piece of plastic that is inserted into the drainage tubing of the urinary bladder catheter, also called a Foley catheter. Inserting a catheter plug into the opening of the drainage tubing prevents urine from leaking out of the Foley catheter. The plug is used on occasions when the urine drainage bag may need to be removed, such as during bathing, showering, and some physical activities. Many plugs feature ridges on the surface area of the plug that enable the patient to grasp it more securely for easier installation and removal of the small plastic piece. Some are packaged with a separate cover to protect the drainage tube and urine collection bag, while other plugs have a built in design that enables it to function as a plug or cover.

Isopropyl alcohol, which can be used to clean a catheter plug.
Isopropyl alcohol, which can be used to clean a catheter plug.

Most catheter plugs are designed to be used only once and are not able to be sterilized between uses. One type of catheter plug may be soaked in an isopropyl alcohol solution while the bladder is drained into the urine collection bag. Some plugs may simply be wiped clean with isopropyl alcohol and re-inserted into the drainage tubing of the catheter during daily use. A catheter plug should never be used on more than one patient to avoid the risk of bacterial contamination from one patient to another.

A urinary catheter.
A urinary catheter.

The simplest catheter plug is a small latex-free plastic cone. It comes with a plastic cap that protects the shape of the plug when it is not in use. A cap may be used to cover the end of the connective tubing to the drainage bag when it is disconnected from the Foley catheter.

Treatment for some forms of bladder cancer may involve the use of a catheter.
Treatment for some forms of bladder cancer may involve the use of a catheter.

One plainly designed catheter plug is also cone-shaped. Small plastic ridges are located on the uppermost portion of the plug. It is individually packaged in a peel-back wrapping to enable the patient or caregiver to open it and plug the drainage tubing quickly.

A plug can be inserted into the exposed end of a urinary catheter to prevent drainage.
A plug can be inserted into the exposed end of a urinary catheter to prevent drainage.

Another type is shaped like a cone with a tapered end. The entire surface of this plug is covered with ridges that enable the patient or caregiver to grasp the plug with ease. Raised areas on the plug also provide the user the ability to remove the plug with more control, which may relieve some of the momentary discomfort a person may feel as the plug is removed and the urine is allowed to drain from the bladder.

Medication may be used in lieu of a catheter to treat some cases of urinary incontinence.
Medication may be used in lieu of a catheter to treat some cases of urinary incontinence.

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Discussion Comments

anon357006

After three months of being catheterized, I found out I could go swimming in the ocean if I just got a catheter plug. So, I've done it twice now. So far, so good. It feels so good to get that stinky clingy bag off my leg for a while, and relieve some of the pulling on my genitals from the freaking bag weight and straps.

anon325387

Catheter plugs allow me to disconnect collection bags while I have a foley catheter inserted. I can ride a bike and be out in public much more comfortably. I just have to remove it to drain my bladder about every two hours.

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