Urinary Self-Catheterization Instructions

There are two main reasons for catheterizing yourself. One is to empty your bladder on a regular schedule and to keep yourself dry. Another reason is to keep your bladder from getting over-distended. This keeps your kidneys healthy and prevents infections.

  • In order to have healthy kidneys and a healthy bladder, you should plan to start by catheterizing yourself 1 to 3 times daily.
  • If you are able to urinate at all on your own, you should catheterize immediately after you urinate if possible. This allows you to measure your post-void residual.
  • If you find that your post-void residual is consistently less than 4 to 6 ounces or 100 cc’s, you may be able to catheterize less often. Call our office or ask one of our nurses for further advice.
  • If you find that your post-void residual is consistently more than 4 to 6 ounces or 100 cc’s, you may need to catheterize more often. Call our office or ask one of our nurses for further advice.

What you need (equipment)

  1. Mirror with a stand
  2. Catheter tube
  3. Washcloth with soap and rinse water
  4. Container to collect urine
  5. Lubricant for catheter tip (this is a water soluble gel — Lubafax or KY Jelly — not Vaseline)
  6. Anti-bacterial soap (liquid) for soaking catheters.

What to do

  1. Have catheter ready for use.
  2. Open lubricant and have it ready or on tip of catheter.
  3. Have washcloth ready with soap on one side and clear water for rinsing on the other.
  4. Urinate if you can.
  5. Wash hands well with soap and water.
  6. Select most comfortable position for doing this task. Place mirror so that you can see.
  7. With fingers of one hand, hold open the vaginal folds and cleanse the area around the urethra by wiping gently from front to back. Use a different section of the washcloth to wipe again.
  8. While holding the folds open, take the tip of the catheter tube and lubricate it.
  9. Hold the catheter 2 inches from the tip with the other hand, and gently insert the tube in the urethra opening. You can look in the mirror to see where it is.
  10. Have the other end of the tube in a container to collect the urine.
  11. Insert the tube until the urine comes out of the catheter.
  12. Keep in place until the bladder is empty (until no more urine is coming out of the catheter).
  13. Remove the catheter and dry the area. Wash catheter with anti-bacterial soap and water and allow to air dry.

Care and storage of catheter

  1. No one should handle the catheter except you, a family member, or the person who will be doing your catheterizations.
  2. These techniques are not sterile. However, good hand washing before and after the procedure and cleaning the equipment is very important.

Other things to know

  1. Your health care practitioner will tell you how often to catheterize yourself.
  2. You will be shown how to keep a record of the amounts of urine if this is needed.

When to call your health care practitioner

  1. Cloudy, foul smelling urine.
  2. Fever (temperature over 100.4ºF. or 38ºC.) or chills.
  3. Burning when passing your urine.

If you have any questions or concerns during office hours, call the nurses at (617) 732-4838 and press #2. If you are having difficulty and the office is closed please call the office and press #0 and you will be connected with the Partners Paging System. The page operator will contact the provider on call.


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