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Catheter Care

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Updated: October 6, 2006

Catheter Care for Caregivers

A urinary catheter is any tube placed in the body to drain and collect urine from the bladder. Catheterization is carried out for a number of reasons and can either be a temporary or permanent solution to a number of problems. Problems include physical disease and damage, psychological issues and a way to help to improve the quality of life to someone who is bed bound. Good regular catheter care involves good hygiene, observation, monitoring well-being and prevention of problems associated with catheterization.

General catheterization tips

  • Always record the amount of urine in the bag. This is very important if there is more than one caregiver involved in the care of someone. Adults make 1 to 2 quarts (or liters) of clear, yellow urine per day.

  • Check that the urine is flowing into the bag

  • Make sure the person drinks sufficient fluids to promote a good urinary output.

  • The urine bag should always below the level of the bladder.

  • Check that the tubing and bag are in good condition.

  • Never pull on the catheter or tubing.

  • Any kinks or obstruction in the tube should be removed. This prevents the urine flowing back into the bladder or inhibiting or stopping the flow of urine.Make sure the person is not sitting or lying on top of the tubing.

  • If the bag is attached to the leg make sure it is not too tight.

  • Check the skin around the catheter for signs of irritation, discomfort or infection. The vagina or the tip of the penis may become swollen, red and sore.
  • Do not use powder around the catheter entry site.

  • The drainage bag should be emptied at least every eight hours.
  • Catheter hygiene
    Before you start tell the person what you are going to do and why. This is important for everyone, but especially if the person is confused, has memory problems as in Alzheimer's disease or dementia. If you can, assist the catheterized person with their hygiene, rather than doing it yourself. It is important to try to help the person / patient keep their skills rather than just take over for them. There are so many advantages but it can just take that bit longer.
    Wash around the catheter entry site with soap and water twice each day. Clean the top several inches of the catheter too.
    Always wash the site after a bowel movement.

    Catheter complications
    Your doctor or health care provider should be contacted if you see any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • The urine has a strong smell or becomes thick and/or cloudy

  • The person develops a fever, sweats or chills

  • There is swelling around the catheter

  • The catheter stops draining or there is very little urine despite adequate fluid intake

  • There is leakage of large amounts of urine around the catheter

  • Bleeding into or around the catheter

  • The person complains of back pain or becomes agitated
  • Complications can include urinary tract and kidney infections, blood infections (septicemia), urethral injury and skin breakdown. Some people can develop allergies or sensitivity to the latex used for catheters, these people should be changed to silicone or Teflon catheters.

    If there is no urine draining, the catheter may be obstructed. Check for kinks and obvious obstruction. If you have been instructed on irrigation and catheter flushing proceed with this. If not, contact your health care provider immediately.

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