Clean intermittent catheterization - female; CIC - female; Self-intermittent catheterization
You will use a catheter (tube) to drain urine from your bladder. 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.
Urine will drain through your catheter into the toilet or a special container. Your health care provider will show you how to use your catheter. After some practice, it will get easier.
Sometimes family members or other people you may know, such as a friend who is a nurse or medical assistant, may be able to help you use your catheter.
You will get a prescription for the right catheter for you. Generally your catheter may be about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long, but there are different types and sizes. You can buy catheters at medical supply stores. You will also need small plastic bags and a gel such as K-Y jelly or Surgilube. Do not use Vaseline (petroleum jelly). Your provider can also submit a prescription to a mail order medical supply company to have your catheters and supplies delivered directly to your house.
Ask how often you should empty your bladder with your catheter. In most cases, you empty your bladder every 4 to 6 hours, or 4 to 6 times a day. Always empty your bladder first thing in the morning and just before you go to bed at night. You may need to empty your bladder more frequently if you have had more fluids to drink.
You can empty your bladder while sitting on a toilet. Your provider can show you how to do this correctly.
Follow these steps to insert your catheter:
Some catheters are meant to be used only once. Many others can be reused if cleaned appropriately. Most insurance companies will pay for you to use a sterile catheter for each use.
If you are reusing your catheter, you must clean your catheter every day. Always make sure you are in a clean bathroom. Do not let the catheter touch any of the bathroom surfaces (such as the toilet, wall, and floor).
Follow these steps:
Throw away the catheter when it becomes dry and brittle.
When away from your house, carry a separate plastic bag for storing used catheters. If possible, rinse the catheters before placing them in the bag. When you return home, follow the above steps to clean them thoroughly.
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.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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