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Bladder Management Program after Spinal Cord Injury


A bladder management program helps you control when and how you empty your bladder. It will also help prevent bladder and kidney infections. A bladder management program includes medicines, devices to empty your bladder, and scheduled bladder care.


Return to the emergency department if:

You have any of the following symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia:

  • You have sudden changes in your vision.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual and you suddenly feel anxious.
  • Your skin above the spinal cord injury is red and sweaty.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You stop urinating.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever or chills.
  • You have blood in your urine.
  • You are urinating less than usual.
  • You have pain in your back.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Why a bladder management program is important:

An overfilled bladder can cause autonomic dysreflexia (AD). AD is a medical emergency that causes very high blood pressure. AD is more likely to happen if you have a spinal cord injury at or above T7 or T8.

What you need to know about medicines and bladder management:

Medicines can help prevent leakage of urine and help you control urination. Medicines can also help prevent bladder spasms.

Use devices to help empty your bladder:

There are several devices you can use to empty your bladder. Healthcare providers will help you find the device that is best for you. You may need someone to help you use any of the following:

  • Intermittent self-catheterization means you will place a tube into your bladder several times each day to drain your urine. Your healthcare provider will teach you how to catheterize your bladder.
  • A Foley catheter is a tube that stays in your bladder and drains your urine. The catheter is placed through your urethra and into your bladder. The catheter drains your urine into a bag.
  • A suprapubic catheter is a tube that drains your urine through a surgically made stoma (created opening) in your abdomen. The opening ends in your bladder. The catheter drains urine into a bag.
  • An external condom catheter is put over a man's penis. The tip of the condom catheter is connected to a tube. The tube drains urine into a bag.

Empty your bladder as often as directed:

Your healthcare provider will help you develop a bladder schedule. Your bladder schedule may depend on which devices you use to empty your bladder. It is important to urinate often to decrease your risk for AD, infection, and accidents.

Drink liquids as directed:

Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Do not drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. These liquids may cause dehydration or make it difficult to control your urine.

Monitor your intake and output as directed:

Write down how much liquid you drink each day and how much you urinate. This will help your healthcare provider know if your program is working.

Prevent skin breakdown from urine leakage:

If you leak urine or have accidents, your skin is at risk for breakdown and infection. Use pads, guards, or drip collectors as directed to help protect your skin. You can also use creams or ointments on your skin to decrease irritation. Ask your healthcare provider where to buy these products.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Bladder Management Program after Spinal Cord Injury (Aftercare Instructions)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.