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Daily life can be busy, especially after an SCI. These tips for creating a catheterization routine will give you the freedom to focus on the good times.

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Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

Emptying your bladder with an intermittent catheter can offer you the freedom to participate in activities that are important to you. The key is finding a way to make emptying your bladder with a catheter a part of your daily routine. Other intermittent catheter users have found the following advice/knowledge to be useful when implementing a catheterization routine: set an alarm, catheterize 4-6 times daily, use leakage as a guide to frequency of catheterization, understand the risks of improper method (eg. urinary tract infections), and measure volumes.

Always remember that users performing self-catheterization should follow the advice of their physician.

Use a chart or set an alarm to remember: Routine happens through consistency of practice, so eliminate the possibility of forgetting by setting reminders.

At first, some people like to use a chart or diary to track their bladder routines, which can be a good visual cue when implementing a new routine. Charts are also helpful if your healthcare provider wants you to keep track of the amount of urine you pass. While this might not be a practice that you choose to continue, it can be helpful when starting out.

Fortunately, we belong to the generation of cell-phones and helpful technology – utilize this! Set reminders or alarms on your cell-phone, smart watch, or calendar to help establish a consistent catheterization routine.

Catheterize as prescribed by your healthcare provider – many people catheterize 4-6 times per day.

Usually it is recommended that you catheterize every 4-6 hours, but you should follow the plan established by your healthcare provider if you are not able to urinate in the usual way (e.g. due to chronic urinary retention).

This is the average number of times that healthcare providers recommend you catheterize. It can be helpful to have an understanding of approximately how often the majority needs to utilize intermittent catheterization, but remember that this is just a guideline, so work to determine what frequency is right for you.

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If you are completely dependent upon intermittent catheters to empty your bladder and catheterize less than necessary for your bladder or prescribed by your healthcare provider you may experience the following:

  • Leakage: leakage might occur because the amount of urine in your bladder exceeds the bladder’s capacity to hold it. If you are experiencing this, make sure you are using IC as you have been instructed. If leakage continues contact your healthcare provider to evaluate your individual situation.

 

  • Urinary tract infection: if you do not empty (by intermittent catheterization) your bladder often or do not empty your bladder completely, the urine siting in the bladder becomes stagnant. Any bacteria in the urine may multiply, which may lead to an infection of your bladder or urinary tract.

 

  • *Helpful Tip*: To make sure urine is removed from the base of your bladder, you need to remove the catheter slowly and pause if more urine is flowing out. Watch a video for further instruction on how to use different types of catheters.

 

  • Potential damage to your kidneys: the increased pressure on your bladder can create a backflow of urine to your kidneys, which can lead to an infection or long-term damage to your kidneys.

If you are catheterizing more than 6 times per day and still have problems with urine leakage, you should consult your healthcare provider. Any of the following could be an explanation for this leakage:

  1. You may not be draining your bladder fully with each catheterization
  2. You may be experiencing bladder irritability and bladder spasms
  3. You may have some other condition that should be evaluated by your health care provider.

Measure the amount of urine you pass: while measuring volumes might seem like a pain, this information can be very helpful when trying to establish your IC routine.

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Make sure your bladder is fully emptied every time you catheterize. By catheterizing at regular intervals, you can keep your urine volumes in an acceptable range. Urine left in the bladder may lead to overgrowth of bacteria which may lead to a urinary tract infection. The goal is to keep the catheterized urine at a volume (400-500 mL) which avoids overstretching the bladder and prevents urine leakage. Every once in a while, measure the amount of urine you empty. It should be no more than around 2 cups (400 mL). If you empty more than that, ask your healthcare provider if you should catheterize more often.

Most Importantly… Go Out and Enjoy Yourself! Intermittent catheterization has the potential to allow you the freedom to get out and do the things that make you happy, but in order to access that freedom you need to take the time to establish a bladder routine.

Keeping your intermittent catheterization routine is just as important when you are out as it is when you are at home. Plan your day ahead, so your catheterization fits in with your other activities. When is it convenient for you to catheterize? Before visiting the museum? During the intermission at the theater? Read more tips about fitting catheterization into your social life here.

Have your own catheterization routine tips? Share them with us in the comment section below!

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Note: Content sponsored by Coloplast. These are general guidelines meant to help you with typical questions. You should follow the specific instructions provided by your healthcare provider and the intermittent catheterization solution you are using.

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