Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.Learn More
A urinary catheter is a narrow tube that goes into the bladder. The urine (pee) drains through the tube into a bag.
A urinary catheter might be needed:
Urinary catheters are only used when they are necessary. They should be removed as soon as possible. Care team members are trained in the best way to insert them to lower the risk of infection.
Most catheters stay in the bladder for a certain amount of time and collect urine in a bag. These are called indwelling catheters. Most indwelling catheters, including Foley catheters, are inserted through the urethra. A suprapubic catheter is a urinary catheter that is inserted through a small hole (stoma) in the belly.
Some patients may not have an indwelling catheter. The catheter may be inserted into the urethra to empty the bladder and then removed. This is sometimes known as clean intermittent catheterization or a self-catheter.
Your care team will help you know what type of catheter is best for your child’s medical needs and teach you any instructions for care at home.
Follow the care team’s instructions for catheter care. All caregivers should wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner before and after touching your child’s catheter.
If you do not see staff members clean their hands, please ask them to do so before touching the catheter.
If your child has a catheter that is left in the bladder (indwelling catheter), a drainage bag will collect the urine. The bag can be hung from a bed or wheelchair. Some patients may have a leg bag that can be strapped around the leg to secure it. Follow your care team’s instructions for emptying and changing the bag.
Only empty the bag if you have been trained to do so. If your child is in the hospital, a care team member will empty the bag. Empty the bag when it is 2/3 full, or at least every 8 hours even if it is not full.
Wash your hands well with soap and water and dry well or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Put on gloves if you have them or if told to use them.
Germs can travel through the catheter and cause an infection in the bladder or kidney. This is called a catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI). It can be serious and lead to other infections.
People with urinary catheters have a much greater chance of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) than people who don’t have catheters. The urinary system includes the bladder and the kidneys. Germs do not normally live in these areas. But, if germs get inside the bladder or kidneys, an infection can occur.
Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection may include:
Some people can have an infection without any of these symptoms. Contact your doctor right away if you think your child may have an infection.
Reviewed: January 2023