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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

You & your catheter

What is a catheter?

A catheter is a fine tube placed in your bladder to drain urine. Your doctor will have explained why you have a catheter in place, which may be for one of the following reasons:

The catheter has been put into your bladder through your urethra or outlet, or directly into your stomach or above the pubic area. It is held in place by a balloon filled with water, and it will not fall out in normal use.

Most catheters can be left in place for 12 weeks. Your doctor or nurse will tell you when your catheter is due to be changed.

During the day – the leg bag

The catheter is attached to a drainage bag or leg bag, and your urine drains directly into this bag. It's held in place with leg straps. The bag may come in two lengths so that you can wear it on your calf or your thigh.

You must wear the leg bag at all times and only remove it when a new bag is fitted. The leg bag is changed every two weeks.

Emptying the bag

Always keep the drainage bag lower than your bladder.

Changing the leg bag

Follow these instructions to change the leg bag on your catheter every two weeks, or if the leg bag gets damaged.

Note: The catheter and leg bag should only ever be disconnected at the time of the bag change.

  1. Wash and dry your hands.
  2. Put a towel on your lap between your body and the catheter, and have your replacement leg bag next to you within easy reach.
  3. Pinch off the end of the catheter.

  4. Pull out the fluted end of the leg bag tubing from the catheter outlet.

  5. Take off the protective cap from the new bag and firmly insert the fluted end into the catheter outlet.

  6. Use the straps provided to secure the leg bag to your leg.
  7. Put the old leg bag in the rubbish.
  8. Wash and dry your hands.

Catheter valves

You may have a catheter valve instead of a leg bag. This is attached directly to the catheter and the urine stays in your bladder until the valve or tip is released.

The valve is changed every seven days, and you need to open the valve every three to four hours or when your bladder feels full.

At night – the night bag

At night, you will wear a larger bag called a night bag. This is attached to the bottom outlet of the leg bag or catheter valve. You must still wear the leg bag or catheter valve at all times.

The night bag has more capacity and longer tubing, which will let you move around more in bed.

If you are at home, you can reuse the night bag, and it will be replaced every week.

Fitting the night bag:

  1. Take off the coloured cap from the end of the night bag tubing.
  2. Connect the tip at the end of the night bag tubing into the bottom outlet of the leg bag.
  3. Open the outlet tap on the leg bag, so that urine can run into the night bag.
  4. Put the night bag into a container, to catch any leakage in case the night bag is faulty or the outlet is not closed properly. Make sure the night bag is kept lower than your bed, as this helps with drainage.

In the morning:

  1. Close the leg bag outlet.
  2. Remove the tip of the night bag tubing from the outlet of the leg bag or catheter valve.
  3. Empty the night bag contents into the toilet or a suitable container, using the drainage tap at the bottom of the bag.
  4. If you are at home, you can wash and dry the night bag with warm soapy water and then hang it up to dry. When the night bag is dry, store it in a clean sealed plastic bag.

How to keep your catheter working properly


Never try to remove the catheter without getting medical or nursing advice, as you may hurt yourself.

Personal hygiene

When having sexual intercourse

Problem solving

For most people, managing a catheter at home is straightforward. However, there are some minor problems which might affect you.

Get treatment if you experience fever, loin pain, significant blood in your urine, or unexplained sudden onset of confusion.





Urinary infection

Bacterial contamination.

  • Smelly, cloudy urine.
  • Urine bypassing the catheter and leaking around the catheter.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Bleeding.
  • Drink more fluids.
  • Try drinking a glass of cranberry juice every day as a preventative measure.
  • Contact your GP who may take a urine sample and prescribe antibiotics. The catheter must be changed 24 hours after starting antibiotics.

No urine in the bag for several hours

  • The tubing could be kinked or bent.
  • The bag is above your bladder level.
  • You have not been drinking enough.
  • Constipation.
  • Debris is blocking the catheter.

Very little or no urine is passing into the bag.

  • Check that the tubing is not kinked or bent (and fix it).
  • Try moving or walking around, which may dislodge a blockage.
  • If after four hours or longer, no urine passes, contact your GP or nurse.


Bladder or urethra irritation by the catheter, or an infection.

Blood in your urine or around the catheter.


  • Drink more fluids.
  • If the bleeding continues, or is still heavy after two days, contact your GP. They may take a urine sample and prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Bladders spasm or leakage around the catheter

The bladder may be irritated by the catheter and may attempt to get rid of it. This forces urine around the catheter causing pain and leakage.

  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Leakage of urine.
  • Less urine in the catheter bag.
  • Take regular four-hourly paracetamol (for example, Panadol) while you are feeling pain.
  • Take regular Oxybutynin (anti-spasmodic) tablets to relax the bladder (as prescribed by your doctor).
  • If the pain persists, contact your GP or nurse.

Catheter falling out or leaking

  • Faulty balloon or damaged catheter.
  • Bladder spasm.


  • If you can still pass urine, call your nurse during office hours.
  • If you cannot pass urine, and your bladder is painful, get immediate help from your GP.


Follow-up care

On discharge from hospital

The nurse will give you:


If you need a catheter for a long-term period, your doctor or nurse will have arranged for you to get new supplies through the District Nursing Service. They will contact you when they receive a referral.

You can get catheter supplies from:

Karamea rural nurse – (03) 782‑6710

Ngakawau rural nurse – (03) 788‑5063

Buller district nurses – (03) 788‑9277

Reefton district nurses – (03) 732‑6440

Moana rural nurse – (03) 738‑0003

Greymouth district nurses – (03) 769‑7721

Hokitika district nurses – (03) 756‑9906

Hari Hari rural nurse – (03) 753‑3008

Whataroa rural nurse – (03) 756‑1080

Franz Josef rural nurse – (03) 752‑0700

Fox rural nurse – (03) 751‑0836

Haast rural nurse – (03) 750‑0800

Monday to Friday 8.30 am to 4.30 pm

If you go away on holiday, remember to tell the District Nursing Service or Rural Nurse, and arrange to take supplies you need with you.

Information for your district nurse and general practitioner

Date Inserted:


Type of Foley catheter:




Size of Foley catheter:




Balloon size:


No. of ml in balloon:


Date for removal or change of catheter:




Other information (relevant medications, etc.):







Information provided by the Canterbury Continence Forum. Adapted by the West Coast DHB. Page created September 2015.


Page reference: 209944

Review key: HIURS-53047