Catheters - Frequently Asked Questions

What is the duration of emptying a bladder with a catheter? Back^

This estimate depends upon how large the diameter of the catheter being used is. Going by usual standards, a few seconds to a maximum of a minute is normal. In fact, catheter insertion (including lubrication) also takes only a minute or less.

How does one know if the catheter has entered the bladder? Back^

A clear indication of this is that your urine will start flowing out of the catheter. A caution here is that once urine starts to flow out it will not stop until the bladder is completely empty. When the urine stops flowing out, it is indicative that the catheter should be removed, unless it is a long term use catheter. Care should be taken however, to not over-insert a catheter. It is rare but not unheard of.

How should a catheter be cleaned and sterilized? Back^

As mentioned above, catheters are either disposable or reusable. Disposable catheters are for single time use only and should not be reused.  Reusable catheters on the other hand do not require being sterile. All you need to do is to clean them with water and a little soap. After this, if possible rinse them with ordinary rubbing alcohol and leave them to dry.

What does it feel like after I have removed the catheter? Back^

There may be a slight residual urge that will quickly pass. There might be a slight burning sensation. The first time you urinate after having used a catheter there might be a brief mild burning sensation. With time and practice you will feel nothing unusual and catheter use will become a non-event.

Where can I find out more about catheters? Back^

Ask your doctor or call us for a personal consultation. 

How do I find a doctor who will prescribe catheters? Back^

Talk to your primary doctor or call around to various urologists in your community. It seems that about 50% of the urologists will readily agree to teach you how to use catheters and the other 50% will adamantly refuse to help you. So call around before making an appointment. Ask to speak with the nurse. Explain that you will want to be taught how to do intermittent self-catheterization. Ask if the doctor is likely to agree to teach that to you. Do not agree to any expensive tests until you obtain a commitment that you will be taught how to use catheters.

How much practice does it take to properly use catheters? Back^

It all depends on you. Some people are more squeamish than others or more sensitive internally. We recommend that you practice at home a few times before going out into situations where you may need the catheter. But if you or your assistant miss the urethra with a smooth insert, please start over with a fresh catheter to minimize chance of UTI.

How often can I use catheters? Back^

Most people use them infrequently, as an emergency aid when they cannot find a place where they can empty their bladder. Usually, catheters might be used once or twice during a trip, visit, or event. It is OK to use them more regularly.

How to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections? Back^

Yes, there is an infection risk. But, there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Men can use disposable iodine or other disinfectant wipes to cleanse the glans penis before inserting the catheter, and perhaps wear disposable sterile gloves. Drink plenty of fluids at the first opportunity after using a catheter, when you know you will be able to safely use a toilet. Empty your bladder frequently. Perhaps drink especially cranberry juice. Perhaps take cranberry pills that are sold over the counter.

There are both over the counter and prescription medicines that can help prevent infections or treat infections. Usually it is not necessary to take these though it is a good idea to have them on hand. Your physician can help you decide what to use.