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Bladder Management Program after Spinal Cord Injury

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I need to know about a bladder management program?

After a spinal cord injury, you may have trouble controlling urine or emptying your bladder. 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.

Why is a bladder management program 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 do I 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.

What devices can help me empty my 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.

How often should I empty my bladder?

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.

What else should I do while on a bladder management program?

  • 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.

When should I seek immediate care?

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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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