People with bladder control issues may need to perform self-catheterization to empty the bladder. Also called clean intermittent catheterization, the process involves using a catheter, or tube, to drain urine at regular intervals throughout the day. People with certain medical conditions may need self-catheterization.
Self-catheterization is a way to empty your bladder when you have difficulty urinating. As the name suggests, you perform the procedure yourself.
Self-catheterization, also called clean intermittent catheterization (CIC) or intermittent self -catheterization (ISC), involves inserting a thin, hollow tube called a catheter into the bladder through the urethra (the tube from which the urine exits your body). Urine drains out of the catheter into a toilet or container. When your bladder is empty, you slip out (remove) the catheter. You repeat these steps at regular intervals (intermittently) several times a day.
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There are several ways to use a catheter to empty the bladder:
Who might need self-catheterization?
Certain health problems can make it difficult to empty your bladder. Bladder control issues that could require a catheter are more likely if you have:
Your healthcare provider will show you how to perform self-catheterization. The process gets easier with practice. Before performing self-catheterization, you should:
Regardless of gender, the steps for performing self-catheterization are generally the same. Females may find it helpful at first to use a mirror to find the urethral opening where urine comes out. To perform self-catheterization:
Cleanup is an important step to preventing infection. Always wash your hands when you finish in the bathroom. The catheters are all single-use, please dispose of it in the trash.
Your healthcare provider can help determine how many times a day you need to empty your bladder. Most people complete the process four to six times a day or every four to six hours.
Inserting a catheter can raise the risk of introducing infection-causing bacteria into the body, but having an indwelling Foley catheter presents even a higher risk. So if possible, CIC is a better option than an indwelling Foley. With any type of catheter, you have a higher chance of having a:
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Some people need self-catheterization for a short time. Depending on the cause of the bladder problem, medications or surgery may correct the problem. If you have a chronic problem or a condition that is expected to get worse over time, you may always need to use a catheter to urinate. Everyone’s situation is different. Talk to your healthcare provider about what you can expect.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/23/2020.
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