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Indwelling catheter care

Alternate Names

Foley catheter


You have an indwelling catheter (tube) in your bladder. "Indwelling" means inside your body. This catheter drains urine from your bladder into a bag outside your body. Common reasons to have an indwelling catheter are urinary incontinence (leakage), urinary retention (not being able to urinate), surgery that made this catheter necessary, or another health problem.

What to Expect at Home

You will need to make sure your indwelling catheter is working properly. You will also need to know how to clean the tube and the area where it attaches to your body so that you do not get an infection or skin irritation. Make catheter and skin care part of your daily routine.

Avoid physical activity for a week or two after your catheter is placed in your bladder.

Cleaning Your Skin

You will need these supplies for cleaning your skin around your catheter and for cleaning your catheter:

Follow these skin care guidelines once a day, every day, or more often if needed:

Cleaning the Catheter

Follow these steps two times a day to keep your catheter clean and free of germs that can cause infection:

You will attach the catheter to your inner thigh with a special fastening device.

You may be given two bags. One bag attaches to your thigh for use during the day. The second one is larger and has a longer connection tube. This bag holds enough so you can use it overnight. You will be shown how to disconnect the bags from the Foley catheter in order to switch them. You will also be taught how to empty the bags through a separate valve without needing to disconnect the bag from the Foley catheter.

Making Sure Your Catheter Is Working

You will need to check your catheter and bag throughout the day.

When to Call the Doctor

A urinary tract infection is the most common problem for people with an indwelling urinary catheter.

Call your health care provider if you have signs of an infection, such as:

Also call your provider if:


Chochran S. Care of the indwelling urinary catheter: is it evidence? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2007 May-Jun;34(3):282-8. PMID: 17505248

Feneley RC. An indwelling urinary catheter for the 21st century. BJU International. 2012 June;109(12):1746-9. PMID: 22094023

Review Date: 1/21/2015
Reviewed By: Scott Miller, MD, urologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.