Nearly a quarter of all hospitalizations in the United States end up requiring the placement of a Foley catheter. This is a type of catheter the remains in a person helping the bladder to pass urine throughout their hospital stay or surgery. Another type of catheter is the intermittent catheter, which is used only when it is time to empty the bladder, after which it is removed. Although catheters have been around for more than 3500 years, these vital urology supplies remain a crucial part of modern medical treatment.
Who Uses Catheters?
As mentioned, catheters are used extensively in hospitals when people are hospitalized or going for surgery. They are also used for some people who suffer from urinary incontinence, a condition which increases with age so that among those 65 to 69 years old 14% experience urinary incontinence but 45% of those over the age of 85 are suffering from it. Catheters are also used occasionally by men who suffer from benign prostatic hyperplasia, or from those suffering from kidney disease as kidney function drops and they wait for dialysis or transplant.
The Dangers of Catheters
Catheters are not dangerous in themselves, but failing to care for them properly and clean them correctly can lead to infection. In fact, urinary tract infections due to intermittent catheters or Foley catheters are the most common healthcare related infection. More than 30% of such infections reported at acute care hospitals are from urology supplies.
How to Care For a Catheter
Some catheters are used only once in our disposable while others can be used multiple times but must be carefully cleaned. It’s important to follow the directions of your healthcare provider in caring for your catheter. Best practices for care of these urology supplies include the following:
- Always wash your hands. Before touching the catheter it’s important that you carefully wash your hands with soap and warm, not cold, water. Hand should be thoroughly scrubbed including the fingertips and nails for a minimum of 15 seconds.
- Wash the catheter Once your hands are clean, carefully clean the catheter with soap and warm water as well. Follow the same precautions as washing your hands.
- Thoroughly rinse the catheter. It is important that there be no soap left on or inside the catheter. Keep rinsing until it runs completely clear.
- Dry and store the catheter properly. The outside of the catheter needs to be perfectly dry and it should be stored in a dry container that is also clean. A resealable plastic sandwich bag is perfectly acceptable.
- Throw away a cloudy catheter. If the plastic and the catheter ever begins to look cloudy, it’s important to throw the catheter away and get a new one.
Caring for a Leg Bag
If you are using a Foley catheter, among your urology supplies will be a leg bag used to hold the urine draining from your bladder. The leg bag attaches to the legs and can be hidden under your clothes if you prefer. The leg bag should be emptied whenever it is half full, or, at a minimum of twice a day. It is also crucial to clean the leg bag every day and have it replaced at intervals your doctor recommends. This is typically between once a week and twice a month. To clean the bag, rinse the leg bag with one part vinegar and three parts water and soak it for a minimum of 20 minutes. Rinse it thoroughly and hang it up to dry.
How to Know if You Have an Infection
If for some reason you do contract a urinary tract infection, this can be treated. Symptoms of such an infection include cloudy urine, red or pink urine because of blood in the urine, pain in your bladder or lower back, swelling or redness in the area where the catheter leaves your body, or fever. You may also feel the need to urinate more often, or experience a burning sensation when you urinate. If any of these symptoms are present, be sure to contact your doctor immediately.
Caring for your catheter is the best way to prevent infections and to benefit from all that your urology supplies have to offer.