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Intermittent Catheterization: What It Is and Other Basics

If you'll be using intermittent catherization to manage your neurogenic bladder symptoms, there is a lot to consider. Set yourself up for success and start with the basics here.

Intermittent Catheterization - What is it and Other Basics

Learn about intermittent catherization.

Your doctor may recommend intermittent catheterization to help you manage your neurogenic bladder. Explore fundamentals that can help you become more comfortable with using a catheter, including features to look for as you begin to choose products.

What is intermittent catheterization?

Intermittent catheterization is the emptying of the bladder at repeated intervals with the use of a catheter. You can learn to do this yourself, or someone can assist you.

If you’ll be catheterizing yourself, you can be taught how to do it in the hospital, at a clinic, or at home under the guidance of your healthcare professional. If you’re a woman, you may need to use a mirror during the first few months of self-catheterization to make inserting the catheter easier. Your healthcare professional will provide you with teaching materials that may include a video, education booklet, product instructions, and samples.

Frequency and timing of intermittent catheterization

How often you catheterize depends on how much you drink and need to urinate during the day. Normally, catheterization is done up to four to six times daily.

Initially, intermittent catheterization is done on a schedule. If you are unable to feel when your bladder is full, the right time is always before the bladder empties itself or “overflows.” Ultimately, the right time to empty your bladder will be based on your own experience. Keeping a journal of fluid intake and urination can be helpful in finding just the right frequency. In all cases, you want to catheterize enough times so that the bladder does not become over distended.

What to look for in an intermittent catheter

Your healthcare professional will determine what size catheter is right for you. It should be small enough to prevent injury to the urethra and large enough to allow for the free flow of urine.

When choosing your catheter, you should make sure it is:

  • Biocompatible (won’t cause allergic reactions)
  • Flexible to easily fit your urethral contours
  • Made from a material that does not change shape when the temperature varies
  • Gentle and comfortable to insert
  • Easy-to-use
  • Ready-to-use without needing any extra equipment
  • “Touch-free” to reduce the risk of infection (i.e., you can insert the catheter right from the package without the need to touch it)

Finding the right intermittent catheter for you

Your healthcare team is a valuable resource in making the right intermittent catheter choice. Look to them if you have questions or need help making a decision.