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Top Catheterization Concerns and What to Do About Them

Do you have questions and concerns about catheterization, such as what to do while taking a trip? Explore some common issues, along with tips for solving them. 

Top Catheterization Concerns and What to do About Them

Learn how to solve common catheter issues.

If you manage your symptoms of neurogenic bladder dysfunction with an intermittent catheter, you probably have a few concerns about potential challenges. The good news is that most of these challenges have simple solutions. Explore some common concerns and what do about them.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs)

It’s important that you monitor for signs of a urinary tract infection (UTI) and see your healthcare professional immediately if they occur. These include:

  • More frequent urination than normal
  • Leakage of urine between normal voiding or catheterization
  • Increased muscle spasms (if you have a spinal cord injury)
  • Fever 
  • Back pain
  • Milky, cloudy, or darkly colored urine
  • Foul smelling urine

Amount of fluids you should drink

With catheterization, you’re likely concerned about how much fluid you should drink. It is generally recommended that adults drink eight to ten glasses of fluid each day. Your needs may be different. Avoid drinks with caffeine since they can irritate the bladder. Alcohol may make the bladder fill more often.

Problems passing the catheter into your bladder

Usually if you cannot pass the catheter it is due to a spasm at the sphincter. Here are some tips that may help:

  • Relax, take a deep breath, or cough 
  • Hold the catheter gently against the closed sphincter. It will usually open after a few seconds. 
  • Never force the catheter. This can cause injury to the urethra. 

If you cannot pass the catheter after three or four tries, call your healthcare provider or go to the accident or emergency room. The healthcare provider will have special catheters available to catheterize you. If this problem occurs often you may need to use a catheter with a bent, Tiemann or Coudé tip.

Large amounts of urine when you catheterize at night

During the day when you are sitting, fluid collects in your legs. You may notice that your feet and ankles become swollen. When you lie down at night all this fluid enters your blood stream, is filtered through your kidneys, and fills up your bladder. To reduce large amounts of fluid, try these options:

  • Lie down for an hour during the day, preferably in the afternoon
  • Catheterize before going to bed for the night
  • Catheterize in the middle of the night
  • Limit your fluid intake after 6 pm

Catheterizing during travel

Unfortunately, many planes, buses, and trains do not have wheelchair accessible bathrooms. Here are a few tips that may make travelling with a catheter easier:

  • If access to a bathroom is an issue, catheterize under a jacket, sweater, or small blanket over your lap using a closed-system catheter
  • Some people choose to insert an indwelling catheter for trips as advised by their health care professional, and then remove them as soon as possible
  • For air travel, be sure to carry your catheter supplies in your carry-on luggage. Most airlines will allow an extra carryon bag for medical equipment. 
  • Some airlines designate the first-class toilet for people with disabilities. Check with the airline when making travel arrangements.

Catheterizing during pregnancy

If you’re expecting or planning to become pregnant, you may wonder if you can still catheterize during your pregnancy. Your healthcare professional will advise you as your pregnancy progresses, but intermittent catheterization can be safe during pregnancy.