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Inability to Urinate (cont.)

When Is Follow-up Needed After Treatment of an Inability to Urinate?

When a catheter is left in place after the initial treatment, a visit to a medical professional, usually a urologist, within a few days is generally recommended.

  • Catheters are a common cause of urinary tract infections and need routine care. If catheters are necessary for long-term treatment, it is advisable to change them on a regular schedule (typically every three to four weeks).
  • Either of two types of drainage bags can be hooked up to the catheter. A smaller bag can be strapped to the leg (called a leg bag), allowing normal activity without anyone knowing that a catheter is in place. A larger bag may be used at night to prevent waking up at night to empty it. This larger bag is the one typically seen in hospitalized patients hanging by the bedside.
  • Contact your doctor if the catheter stops draining. It is possible that a blood clot, tissue, or debris can plug the catheter. Symptoms of urinary retention can potentially come back and there may be leakage of urine around the catheter. In these situations, the catheter will often require irrigation or replacement.

People with a Foley catheter may experience bladder spasms. The catheter is held in the bladder by a balloon at its tip that is inflated with sterile water after the insertion of the catheter. The catheter and the balloon may irritate the bladder, causing the bladder muscles to contract. This may lead to a spasm, or cramp, in the lower abdomen and sometimes leakage of urine around the catheter. If the spasms and/or leakage is severe, medications can be given to quiet the bladder down.

  • If the catheter tubing is accidentally pulled, it may pull the catheter backward into the urethra. If this occurs, the catheter may stop draining and you will need to seek emergent help (either in the ER or with your doctor) with replacement of the catheter.

Catheter removal is a simple procedure that can be performed in any medical office.

  • It is best done in the morning, if possible. This allows for the entire day to resume normal urination.
  • If urinary retention continues, the catheter can be replaced later in the day or more commonly, clean intermittent catheterization is taught. With clean intermittent catheterization, a catheter is placed into the bladder periodically during the day to empty the bladder and then removed. In between the catheterizations, if you have an urge to void, you can do so on your own if you are capable. The use of clean intermittent catheterization decreases some of the complications associated with an indwelling catheter and allows you to determine when your bladder is getting better. How often you will need to catheterize during the day will vary with the amount of urine that you drain when you catheterize.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/27/2016
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