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Foley Catheter

Foley Catheter Introduction

A Foley catheter is a thin, sterile tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine. Because it can be left in place in the bladder for a period of time, it is also called an indwelling catheter. It is held in place with a balloon at the end, which is filled with sterile water to prevent the catheter from being removed from the bladder. The urine drains through the catheter tube into a bag, which is emptied when full. The procedure to insert a catheter is called catheterization.

A Foley catheter is used with many disorders, procedures, or problems such as these:

  • Retention of urine leading to urinary hesitancy, straining to urinate, decrease in size and force of the urinary stream, interruption of urinary stream, and sensation of incomplete emptying
  • Obstruction of the urethra by an anatomical condition that makes it difficult for one to urinate: prostate hypertrophy, prostate cancer, or narrowing of the urethra
  • Urine output monitoring in a critically ill or injured person
  • Collection of a sterile urine specimen for diagnostic purposes
  • Nerve-related bladder dysfunction, such as after spinal trauma (A catheter can be inserted regularly to assist with urination.)
  • Imaging study of the lower urinary tract
  • After surgery
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2014

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Foley Catheter - Procedure

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Care for an Indwelling Urinary Catheter

Always wash your hands before and after handling your catheter. Follow all of the instructions your doctor has given you. Also:

  • Make sure that urine is flowing out of the catheter into the urine collection bag. Make sure that the catheter tubing does not get twisted or kinked.
  • Keep the urine collection bag below the level of your bladder.
  • Make sure that the urine collection bag does not drag and pull on the catheter.
  • Unless you have been told not to, it is okay to shower with your catheter and urine collection bag in place.
  • Check for inflammation or signs of infection in the area around the catheter. Signs of infection include pus or irritated, swollen, red, or tender skin.
  • Clean the area around the catheter twice a day using soap and water. Dry with a clean towel afterward.
  • Do not apply powder or lotion to the skin around the catheter.
  • Do not tug or pull on the catheter.
  • Do not have sexual intercourse while wearing a catheter.
  • At night you may wish to hang the urine collection bag on the side of your bed.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Incontinence, Urinary »

Urinary incontinence is defined by the International Continence Society as the involuntary loss of urine that represents a hygienic or social problem to the individual.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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