Intermittent catheterization programs (ICPs) are often used when you have the ability to use a catheter yourself or someone can do it for you. You insert the catheter—a thin, flexible, hollow tube—through the urethra into the bladder and allow the urine to drain out. It is done at scheduled times, and the catheter is not permanent.
In general, an ICP requires that you limit your fluids. You and your doctor will figure out how much fluid you can consume each day and what times are best to use the catheter.
How to use the catheter
Following is a general outline of the procedure. Your rehabilitation (rehab) team or doctor will show you and/or a loved one how to perform a catheterization.
- Be sure you have everything you need. This typically includes a catheter, a water-based lubricant, a container to collect the urine, disposable gloves, and cleansing equipment, such as cotton balls, paper towels, soap, and antiseptics.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and put on the gloves. Gloves are optional.
- Get into a position that is most comfortable for you and/or your caregiver.
- Wash the tip of your penis with soap and water, or use an antiseptic.
- Position the end of the catheter so that urine can flow out into a collection container.
- Lubricate about 2 in. (5.1 cm) of the tip of the catheter.
- If you are not circumcised, pull back the foreskin and keep it back during the procedure.
- Hold your penis straight out in front of you, so its head is pointing away from your body. You may also hold it erect, so that it is pointing up.
- Gently insert the catheter into the urethra, the opening in the penis. If you feel resistance, pause for a few minutes and then gently press the catheter in again. If you cannot insert the catheter, do not force it. Stop, and call your doctor.
- When urine begins to flow, insert the catheter about 2 in. (5.1 cm) more into the penis.
- When the urine stops flowing, press your abdomen or tighten the abdomen muscles. This helps to completely empty the bladder.
- Remove the catheter slowly. If urine begins to flow again, stop removing the catheter until the urine flow stops.
- Wash your hands, or take off your gloves.
- Examine the urine. If it is cloudy, has blood in it, or there has been a change in color or odor, call your doctor.
One-time–use catheters can be thrown away after each use. If you have a reusable catheter, you will need to wash and dry it after each use. To clean your catheter:
- Wash the catheter with soap and water, or put it in an antiseptic solution.
- Rinse the catheter, inside and out, with clean water. Some people use a syringe to push soapy water through the catheter.
- Dry the catheter. Place it on a clean towel, fold the towel over, and hang the towel on a rack.
- When the catheter is dry, place it in a plastic bag.
Current as of: March 28, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Nancy Greenwald MD - Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation