Catheter Problems

Originally published on: June 25th, 2020. Last modified on August 31st, 2021

Dealing With Urinary Catheter Problems

Catheter Problems
Occasionally people may experience problems with their urinary catheters or accessories and the advice below should help. In all cases remember that good fluid intake is essential and often problems can be sorted simply by increasing intake.  Below you’ll find information on some of the associated risks and problems you may encounter with a catheter.

Poor drainage or non-drainage of urine

  • Check the catheter tubing is not kinked or twisted
  • Check the drainage bag is properly connected and doesn’t need emptying
  • Ensure the leg or night bag is below the level of your bladder
  • Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids
  • Walking encourages better drainage and may dislodge any debris in the catheter

Excess leakage of urine around the catheter

  • A small amount of leakage may occasionally occur as there is a gap between the body (urethra) and the catheter
  • Leakage could be the result of a bladder spasm which can sometimes occur when you first have a catheter fitted but should pass within 24 – 48 hours
  • Provided your catheter is draining correctly, leakage is not an emergency, however it is advisable to mention this to your health professional

Discomfort or pain

  • Check that your drainage bag is not pulling on your catheter and that it is adequately supported
  • Pain in your lower abdomen or back (with or without fever) could indicate a urinary tract infection and you should seek advice from your GP

Blood in your urine

  • You may occasionally experience specs of blood in your urine and this is generally nothing to worry about
  • A larger quantity of blood in your urine may be a sign of a urinary tract infection and you should speak to your GP about this in case you need a course of antibiotics
  • If you experience fresh blood or blood clots you should seek immediate advice from your GP or health professional

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When To Call A Healthcare Professional

If your Healthcare Professional has given you instructions about when to notify him or her should you experience catheter problems, be sure to follow those instructions.

Call your Healthcare Professional if:

  • No urine or very little urine is flowing into the collection bag and you feel your bladder is full.
  • You have new pain in your abdomen, pelvis, legs, or back.
  • Your urine has changed colour, is very cloudy, looks bloody, or has large blood clots in it.
  • The insertion site becomes very irritated, swollen, red, or tender.
  • Your urine has a foul odour (maybe a fishy smell).
  • Urine is leaking from the insertion site.
  • You have a fever.
  • You develop nausea, vomiting or feel unwell.

Do not wait until late in the afternoon to call a Healthcare Professional.

If you have a catheter problem contact someone immediately.


Important Points To Remember When You Have A Catheter

  • Drink plenty of fluids. At least 12 cups (4 pints) per 24 hours. This will dilute your urine and possibly reduce the risk of infection. It will also help flush out any debris in your bladder.
  • Cranberry Juice can have a beneficial effect in cutting down the rate of infection although research is still ongoing. It is best taken in small doses throughout the day but no more than two large glasses. Do not take Cranberry Juice if you are taking Warfarin tablets or any other anticoagulant.
  • Keep your leg and night bag below the level of the bladder to prevent the backflow of urine.
    Avoid disconnecting the leg bag unnecessarily or touching the end of the connector as this can lead to infection.
  • Do not use oil-based creams or talcum powder around the catheter area.
  • Try to avoid constipation as this can interfere with catheter function.
  • Movement such as a little exercise can often get rid of any debris such as old tissue cells in your bladder.
  • Hygiene is vitally important, always wash the area around where the catheter enters your body at least once per day with soap and water to remove any encrustation or debris which may have dried to your catheter

Emergency Equipment

It is important to keep an emergency stock of catheter equipment at home so that you are prepared if you encounter any problems.

  • Two spare catheters of the size and type you use which may also include the necessary 10ml syringes, if not 2 x 10ml syringes & sterile water for balloon inflation.
  • Anaesthetic or lubricating gel for insertion.
  • Catheter drainage bags with supporting straps and/or catheter valves.
  • Your patient notes with the catheter change history.
  • Catheter maintenance solutions or instillations if already prescribed.

Store any catheters, valves or drainage bags in their original packaging; in a dry, safe place away from direct sunlight and heat. If you are in any doubt about what equipment or products you should keep at home, please discuss this further with your health professional.

If you need support, you are welcome to contact the Bladder & Bowel Home Delivery service who can supply urology care needs, and help you with product advice and guidance.

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Taking Care Of Yourself

  • Drink plenty of fluids and take regular exercise, but avoid anything too vigorous, ensure your catheter is well supported before any exercise.
  • It is recommended that 5 pieces of fruit or vegetables are eaten per day to promote health and maintain a healthy system.