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Foley Catheter Placement and Care

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What is a Foley catheter?

A Foley catheter is a sterile tube that is inserted into your bladder to drain urine. It is also called an indwelling urinary catheter. The tip of the catheter has a small balloon filled with solution that holds the catheter in your bladder.

How is a Foley catheter placed?

Your genital area will be cleaned to prevent infection. The catheter will be inserted into your urethra. When urine begins to flow into the tubing, the balloon is filled to keep the catheter in place. Then, the open end will be attached to a drainage bag.

How do I care for my catheter and drainage bag?

You can reduce your risk for infection and injury by caring for your catheter and drainage bag properly.

  • Wash your hands often. Wash before and after you touch your catheter, tubing, or drainage bag. Use soap and water. Wear clean disposable gloves when you care for your catheter or disconnect the drainage bag. Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food.
  • Clean your genital area 2 times every day. Clean your catheter area and anal opening after every bowel movement.
    • For men: Use a soapy cloth to clean the tip of your penis. Start where the catheter enters. Wipe backward making sure to pull back the foreskin. Then use a cloth with clear water in the same direction to clean away the soap.
    • For women: Use a soapy cloth to clean the area that the catheter enters your body. Make sure to separate your labia and wipe toward the anus. Then use a cloth with clear water and wipe in the same direction.
  • Secure the catheter tube so you do not pull or move the catheter. This helps prevent pain and bladder spasms. Healthcare providers will show you how to use medical tape or a strap to secure the catheter tube to your body.
  • Keep a closed drainage system. Your catheter should always be attached to the drainage bag to form a closed system. Do not disconnect any part of the closed system unless you need to change the bag.
  • Keep the drainage bag below the level of your waist. This helps stop urine from moving back up the tubing and into your bladder. Do not loop or kink the tubing. This can cause urine to back up and collect in your bladder. Do not let the drainage bag touch or lie on the floor.
  • Empty the drainage bag when needed. The weight of a full drainage bag can be painful. Empty the drainage bag every 3 to 6 hours or when it is ⅔ full.
  • Clean and change the drainage bag as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how often you should change the drainage bag and what cleaning solution to use. Wear disposable gloves when you change the bag. Do not allow the end of the catheter or tubing to touch anything. Clean the ends with an alcohol pad before you reconnect them.

What can I do if problems develop?

  • No urine is draining into the bag:
    • Check for kinks in the tubing and straighten them out.
    • Check the tape or strap used to secure the catheter tube to your skin. Make sure it is not blocking the tube.
    • Make sure you are not sitting or lying on the tubing.
    • Make sure the urine bag is hanging below the level of your waist.
  • Urine leaks from or around the catheter, tubing, or drainage bag: Check if the closed drainage system has accidently come open or apart. Clean the catheter and tubing ends with a new alcohol pad and reconnect them.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your catheter comes out.
  • You suddenly have material that looks like sand in the tubing or drainage bag.
  • No urine is draining into the bag and you have checked the system.
  • You have pain in your hip, back, pelvis, or lower abdomen.
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have bladder spasms for more than 1 day after the catheter is placed.
  • You see blood in the tubing or drainage bag.
  • You have a rash or itching where the catheter tube is secured to your skin.
  • Urine leaks from or around the catheter, tubing, or drainage bag.
  • The closed drainage system has accidently come open or apart.
  • You see a layer of crystals inside the tubing.
  • 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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Further information

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