Urinary Catheter

What is a Urinary Catheter?

A urinary catheter is a tube placed in the body to drain and collect urine from the bladder.

Insertion of an indwelling urinary catheter

When inserting an indwelling urinary catheter(IDC), a latex, polyurethane, or silicone tube known as a urinary catheter is inserted into a Patient’s bladder via the urethra(connection between the bladder and genitals). Catheterization allows the Patient’s urine to drain freely from the bladder in a urine bag for collection. A urinary catheter may also be used to inject liquids used for treatment or diagnosis of bladder conditions. A clinician, often a nurse, usually performs the procedure. The catheter may be a permanent one (indwelling catheter), or an intermittent catheter removed after each catheterization.


  • Why is it done?
  • What is done?
  • How is it removed?
  • Publication


Why is it done?

A catheter is inserted into your loved ones bladder for a number of reasons, including:

  • To drain urine from the bladder in a critically ill Patient so that kidney function can be monitored closely;
  • To balance fluid intake according to urine output
  • In Intensive Care, one of the main indications for urinary catheterisation is to enable the unconscious or sedated Patient to empty the bladder without becoming incontinent(inability to control urine flow) and keep the skin clear from urine
  • For someone who is paralysed in the lower half of the body;
  • Incontinence(inability to control urine flow)

Male Anatomy                                                              Female Anatomy


What is done?

In order for a nurse or a doctor to insert an indwelling catheter into a Patient’s bladder, a few preparations need to take place before the catheter can be inserted. The Catheter will be inserted under sterile conditions and because of the infection risk the entrance to the urethra is cleaned with an antiseptic agent. A local anesthetic lubricant or gel is used to avoid discomfort when the catheter is inserted. Usually, the insertion is more uncomfortable for males than it is for females. Once the catheter has reached the bladder, a small balloon, sitting at the end of the catheter gets filled with water, so that the catheter doesn’t migrate out of the bladder. The catheter gets attached to a urinary drainage bag, where urine output gets monitored hourly, whilst your loved one remains in Intensive Care.

What are the risks?

  • The biggest risk is infection risk as with the entry of a foreign body into the bladder, the risk of infection is increased
  • Failure to catheterize due to a blockage in the urethra, especially in men with previous prostate issues
  • Trauma to the urethra or bladder

All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff.

How and when is the urinary catheter removed?

A nurse will remove the water from the balloon and remove the catheter. There will be a momentary sensation only. The Catheter can usually be removed after the Patient is awake and mobile.

Any questions?

Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with the ICU nurses and doctors.

All Intensive Care interventions and procedures carry a degree of potential risk even when performed by skilled and experienced staff. Please discuss these issues with the medical and nursing staff who are caring for your loved one.

The information contained on this page is general in nature and therefore cannot reflect individual Patient variation. It is meant as a back up to specific information which will be discussed with you by the Doctors and Nurses caring for your loved one. INTENSIVE CARE HOTLINE attests to the accuracy of the information contained here BUT takes no responsibility for how it may apply to an individual Patient. Please refer to the full disclaimer.

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