A suprapubic catheter (tube) drains urine from your bladder. It is inserted into your bladder through a small hole in your lower belly. You may need a catheter because you have urinary incontinence (leakage), urinary retention (not being able to urinate), surgery that made a catheter necessary, or another health problem.
Your catheter will make it easier for you to drain your bladder and avoid infections. You will need to make sure it is working properly. You may need to know how to change it. The catheter will need to be changed every 4 to 6 weeks.
You can learn how to change your catheter in a sterile (very clean) way. After some practice, it will get easier. Your health care provider will change it for you the first time.
Sometimes family members, a nurse, or others may be able to help you change your catheter.
You will get a prescription to buy special catheters at a medical supply store. Other supplies you will need are sterile gloves, a catheter pack, syringes, sterile solution to clean with, gel such as K-Y Jelly or Surgilube (do not use Vaseline), and a drainage bag. You may also get medicine for your bladder.
Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water every day for a few days after you change your catheter. Avoid physical activity for a week or two. It is best to keep the catheter taped to your belly.
Once your catheter is in place, you will need to empty your urine bag only a few times a day.
Follow these guidelines for good health and skin care:
You will need to check your catheter and bag throughout the day.
You will need to change the catheter about every 4 to 6 weeks. Always wash your hands with soap and water before changing it.
Once you have your sterile supplies ready, lie down on your back. Put on two pairs of sterile gloves, one over the other. Then:
If you are having trouble changing your catheter, call your provider right away. Insert a catheter into your urethra through your urinary opening between your labia (women) or in the penis (men) to pass urine. Do not remove the suprapubic catheter because the hole can close up quickly. However, if you have removed the catheter already and cannot get it back in, call your provider or go to the local emergency room.
Contact your provider if:
Dauw CA, Wolf JS. Fundamentals of urinary tract drainage. In: Partin AW, Dmochowski RR, Kavoussi LR, Peters CA, eds. Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 12.
Davis JE, Silverman MA. Urologic procedures. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, eds. Roberts and Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 55.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/1/2023
Reviewed By: Kelly L. Stratton, MD, FACS, Associate Professor, Department of Urology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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