What is a catheter | JP Meyer Urology Redcliffe Brisbane

What is a catheter?

Patient Information

A catheter is a fine tube placed into your bladder in order to drain urine. A catheter is placed for a variety of reasons which include:

  • Inability to pass urine
  • To allow healing after urological surgery
  • Management of urinary incontinence
  • To allow bladder function tests (such as Urodynamics)

The catheter has been placed into your bladder via your urethra (urine tube), or directly into your abdomen or supra-pubically. The catheter is held in place by a balloon filled with water and will not fall out in normal use.

Most catheters can be left in place for up to 12 weeks.

Leg bag

The catheter must be attached to a drainage bag or leg bag and urine drains directly into this bag.

  • The bag is to be worn during the day
  • The tubing may come in 2 lengths so it can be worn on your calf or your thigh.
  • Empty the leg bag using the drainage tap at the bottom of the bag.
  • The bag should be emptied every 3-4 hours or before it becomes over-full.
  • Always keep the leg bag LOWER than the bladder.
  • The leg bag should be changed at least every two weeks.

Changing the leg bag

The leg bag should be changed every two weeks, or if it is damaged. The catheter and leg bag connection should only be disconnected when you change your bag.
In order to change your leg bag:

  1. Wash and dry your hands well
  2. Place a towel on your lap between you and the catheter, with your replacement leg bag beside you taking care not to touch the tips of any connecting tubing.
  3. Pinch off the end of the catheter and withdraw the fluted end of the leg bag tubing from the catheter outlet
  4. Remove the protective cap from the new leg bag and firmly insert fluted end into the catheter outlet
  5. Secure the new bag to your leg using the straps provided
  6. Empty urine from the old drainage bag into the toilet
  7. Dispose of the old bag in the rubbish.
  8. Wash and dry your hands

Night bag

At night a larger capacity bag should be attached either to the outlet of the leg bag. The night bag has a longer tubing allowing greater movement in bed.

To fit the night bag:
  1. Wash and dry your hands well
  2. Remove the coloured (usually blue) cap from the end of the new night bag tubing.
  3. Connect the fluted tip at end of the night bag tubing into the bottom outlet of the leg bag.
  4. Open the outlet tap on the leg bag, urine will then run freely into the night bag.
  5. Place the night bag into a container, e.g. plastic container, to contain possible leakage from the night bag. The night bag must be lower than your bed to aid drainage.
To remove the night bag:
  1. Close the leg bag outlet or catheter valve and remove fluted end of the night bag tubing from the outlet of leg bag or catheter valve.
  2. Empty urine from the night bag into the toilet or suitable container using the drainage tap.
  3. Wash the night bag with warm soapy water and hang up to dry
  4. When dry, store the night bag in a clean sealed plastic bag.

Potential Catheter Problems:

1.Urinary infection


  • Smelly, cloudy urine
  • Urine bypassing the catheter and leakage around the catheter
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding in the urine (haematuria)
  • Treatment:
  • Increase your fluid intake
  • Try taking a cranberry tablet per day as a preventative measure (do NOT do this if you take warfarin)
  • Contact me or your GP who may take a urine sample and prescribe a course of antibiotics
  • The catheter must be changed 24 hours after starting antibiotics
2. There is little or no urine in your bag for several hours
  • The tubing could be kinked or bent
  • The bag is above bladder level
  • Low fluid intake
  • Constipation
  • Blocked catheter due to debris
  • Treatment:
  • Check the placement of catheter tubing and drainage bag.
  • Try moving or walking around, this may dislodge a blockage
  • If 4 hours or longer pass and no urine passes, contact me, your GP, or attend the Emergency Department.
3. Blood in the urine or around the catheter


  • Irritation of bladder or urethra by the catheter or infection
  • Treatment:
  • Increase your fluid intake.
  • If the bleeding persists or is still heavy after 2 days contact me or your GP who may take a urine sample and prescribe a course of antibiotics.
4. Bladder spasm / Leakage around your catheter


  • The bladder can be irritated by the catheter and may attempt to expel the catheter, this forces urine out around the catheter causing pain and leakage.


  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Leakage of urine
  • Decreased urine in the catheter bag


  • Take regular 4 hourly paracetamol while pain is present.
  • Take regular Oxybutynin (anti-spasmodic) tablets to relax the bladder.
  • If pain persists, contact me or your GP.
5. Catheter has fallen out


  • Faulty balloon or damaged catheter.
  • Severe bladder spasm.
  • Treatment:
  • If you cannot pass urine yourself, and the bladder becomes painful seek immediate help.