Intermittent Catheterization: What It Is and Other Basics

If you'll be using intermittent catheterization to manage your bladder disorder, there is a lot to consider. Set yourself up for success by learning the basics here.

Intermittent Catheterization - What is it and Other Basics

Learn about intermittent catheterization.

Your healthcare professional may recommend intermittent catheterization to help you manage your bladder disorder. Explore fundamentals that can help you become more comfortable with using a catheter, including features to look for as you begin to choose products.

What is intermittent catheterization?

Intermittent catheterization, or in-out catheterization, is the emptying of the bladder at repeated intervals with a single-use catheter. You can learn to do this yourself, or someone can assist you.

If you’ll be catheterizing yourself, your healthcare professional can teach you how to do it in the hospital, at a clinic, or at home. If you’re a woman, you may need to use a mirror the first few times you self-catheterize, to make inserting the catheter easier. Your healthcare professional will provide you with educational materials that may include a video, education booklet, product instructions, and samples.

Frequency and timing of intermittent catheterization

How often you will need to catheterize will be based on your individual situation.

Initially, intermittent catheterization is done on a schedule. In adults, the general rule is to catheterize frequently enough to avoid leaving more than 500 ml of urine in the bladder. If you are unable to pass urine independently, you will usually require intermittent catheterization four to six times daily to ensure that your bladder volume remains within 300 ml and 500 ml.

Ultimately, the right time to empty your bladder will be based on your own experience. Keeping a journal of fluid intake and urination can help you determine just the right frequency. In all cases, you want to catheterize enough times so that your bladder does not become over-distended.

What to look for in an intermittent catheter

Your healthcare professional will determine what size catheter is right for you. The correct size will allow you to insert the catheter into your urethra smoothly, and drain your bladder effectively and efficiently. The catheter should be large enough to allow for free flow of urine without causing damage to the urethra.

When choosing your catheter, you should make sure it is:

  • Biocompatible (won’t cause allergic reactions)
  • Flexible to easily fit your urethral contours
  • Gentle and comfortable to insert and remove
  • Easy-to-use
  • Ready-to-use without needing any extra steps or equipment
  • “Touch-free” to potentially reduce the risk of infection (i.e., you can insert the catheter right from the package without the need to touch it)

Finding the right intermittent catheter for you

Your healthcare team is a valuable resource in making the right intermittent catheter choice. Look to them if you have questions or need help making a decision.