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How to Care for your Suprapubic Catheter

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.


A suprapubic catheter

is a tube that drains urine from your bladder. It is inserted through a small hole in your lower abdomen and into your bladder. Suprapubic means that the catheter is inserted above your pubic bone. You may need a catheter because you have problems urinating because of a medical condition or surgery. A suprapubic catheter is also called an indwelling urinary catheter.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have changes in how your urine looks or smells, or you have blood in your urine.
  • You have an overgrowth of skin at the insertion site that is getting larger.
  • The closed drainage system has accidently come open or apart.
  • Your catheter keeps getting blocked.
  • There is less urine than usual or no urine draining into the drainage bag.
  • The catheter comes out.
  • Your insertion site is red, smells bad, or has green or yellow discharge.
  • You have pain in your hip, back, pelvis, or lower abdomen.
  • You are confused or have other changes in the way that you think.
  • You have questions or concerns about how to care for your catheter.

Why catheter care is important:

An infection can develop when bacteria get inside the catheter or drainage system. This can happen when the urine bag is changed or when a urine sample is collected. You can get an infection if you do not wash your hands. You can also get an infection if the catheter equipment is not cleaned properly. Urinary catheter-based infections can lead to serious illness. The following can help prevent infection:

  • Care for your catheter as directed. Follow directions on how to clean and care for the catheter, insertion site, and drainage bag. Keep the catheter drainage system closed. Keep the catheter tube secured to your leg so it will drain well.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Good choices for most people include water, juice, and milk. Coffee, soup, and fruit may be counted in your daily liquid amount.
  • Wash your hands often. Always wash with soap and water before and after you touch your catheter, tubing, or drainage bag. Wear clean medical gloves when you care for your catheter or disconnect the drainage bag. This will help stop germs from getting into your catheter. Remind anyone who cares for your catheter or drainage system to wash his or her hands.

Care for your drainage bag:

  • Always wash your hands before and after you touch the catheter or the insertion site. Wear clean medical gloves when you care for your catheter.
  • Position the drainage bag and tubing:
    • Allow gravity drainage. Do not loop or kink the tubing so urine can flow into the bag.
    • Position the drainage bag properly. Keep the drainage bag below the level of your waist. This helps stop urine from moving back up the tubing and into your bladder.
    • Keep the bag off the floor. This will help prevent contamination.
  • Empty the drainage bag when needed. The weight of a full drainage bag can pull on the catheter and cause pain. Empty the drainage bag every 3 to 6 hours or when it is ½ to ⅔ full.
    • Place a large container on the floor next to your chair. You may also hold the urine bag over the toilet.
    • Remove the drain spout from its sleeve at the bottom of the urine bag. Do not touch the tip. Open the slide valve on the spout.
    • Let the urine flow out of the urine bag into the container or toilet. Do not let the drainage tube touch anything.
    • Clean the end of the drain spout when the bag is empty. Ask your healthcare provider which cleaning solution is best to use.
    • Close the slide valve and put the drain spout into its sleeve at the bottom of the urine bag. Write down how much urine was in your bag if your healthcare provider has asked you to keep a record.
  • Clean and change the drainage bag as directed. Ask your healthcare provider how often you should change the drainage bag. You may buy a solution to clean the drainage bag. You may also make a solution with tap water and household bleach or vinegar. Wear medical gloves if you need to disconnect the tubing. Do not allow the end of the catheter or tubing to touch anything. Clean the ends with a new alcohol pad or as directed by your healthcare provider before you reconnect them.

Other tips:

  • Wash your genital area and the insertion site with soap and water 2 times a day. Wash your anal area with soap and water after each bowel movement.
  • You may need to use the larger drainage bag at night. A leg bag can be used during the day. A leg bag usually fits under clothing.

Follow up with your doctor 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.

Further information

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