Suprapubic catheter care
A suprapubic catheter (tube) drains urine from your bladder. It is inserted into your bladder through a small hole in your belly. You may need a catheter because you have urinary incontinence (leakage), urinary retention (not being able to urinate), surgery that made a catheter necessary, or another health problem.
What to Expect at Home
Your catheter will make it easier for you to drain your bladder and avoid infections. You will need to make sure it is working properly. You may need to know how to change it. The catheter will need to be changed every 4 to 6 weeks.
You can learn how to change your catheter in a sterile (very clean) way. After some practice, it will get easier. Your health care provider will change it for you the first time.
Sometimes family members, a nurse, or others may be able to help you change your catheter.
You will get a prescription to buy special catheters at a medical supply store. Other supplies you will need are sterile gloves, a catheter pack, syringes, sterile solution to clean with, gel such as K-Y Jelly or Surgilube (DO NOT use Vaseline), and a drainage bag. You may also get medicine for your bladder.
Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water every day for a few days after you change your catheter. Avoid physical activity for a week or two. It is best to keep the catheter taped to your belly.
Once your catheter is in place, you will need to empty your urine bag only a few times a day.
Caring for Your Skin Near your Catheter
Follow these guidelines for good health and skin care:
Make Sure Your Catheter Is Working
You will need to check your catheter and bag throughout the day.
Changing Your Catheter
You will need to change the catheter about every 4 to 6 weeks. Always wash your hands with soap and water before changing it.
Once you have your sterile supplies ready, lie down on your back. Put on two pairs of sterile gloves, one over the other. Then:
If you are having trouble changing your catheter, call your provider right away. Insert a catheter into your urethra through your urinary opening between your labia (women) or in the penis (men) to pass urine. DO NOT remove the suprapubic catheter because the hole can close up quickly. However, if you have removed the catheter already and cannot get it back in, call your provider or go to the local emergency room.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your provider if:
Davis JE, Silverman MA. Urologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 55.
Solomon ER, Sultana CJ. Bladder drainage and urinary protective methods. In: Walters MD, Karram MM, eds. Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 43.
Tailly T, Denstedt JD. Fundamentals of urinary tract drainage. In: Wein AJ, Kavoussi LR, Partin AW, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 6.
Review Date: 1/31/2019
Reviewed By: Sovrin M. Shah, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Urology, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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