Intermittent Catheterization Techniques

If you have a spinal cord injury and need to use an intermittent catheter, you may want to know more about usage techniques. Get a basic overview here.


Learn about using intermittent catheters

Intermittent catheterization (IC) is the emptying of the bladder at repeated intervals with the use of a catheter. It is an effective way to manage a bladder disorder, and can be done by patients or caregivers using various techniques. All of the techniques require cleansing the hands and genital area prior to catheterization. The two most common methods are the Aseptic (or Sterile) technique and the Clean Technique.

The Aseptic Technique involves using a sterilized, disposable intermittent catheter. A closed-system can be used if needed. Sterile gloves are sometimes used, and the genitals are disinfected with antiseptic or cleaning solution. The No-touch Technique provides the benefits of the aseptic technique. This uses a sterile ready-to-use single-use gel or hydrophilic catheter with a protective sleeve and tip, combined with a collection bag if required. The catheter is not directly touched which potentially reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. These single-use catheters are packaged sterile and should be disposed of after use.

The Clean Technique is used by patients or caregivers only in a home setting. It involves touching the catheter directly, but not the part that is inserted into the body. This is done without using gloves, so hand washing before use is particularly important. A gel is typically applied to the catheter to lubricate it, and urine is emptied directly into a toilet, urinal, or other collection device. These single-use catheters are packaged sterile and should be disposed of after use.

If a catheter with a protective sleeve and tip is used – with or without a collection bag – either technique can be used, regardless of the setting. Your healthcare team will help you choose the best technique for you, and give you step-by-step instructions. It’s important, regardless of the technique you use, to be fully trained by a healthcare professional.

To learn more about intermittent catheterization, read “Intermittent Catheterization: What It Is and Other Basics.”