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How to Care for a Suprapubic Catheter

A catheter was placed to let your bladder drain. Follow your care plan on how often you should empty your bag or change gear. Home care will help you avoid problems like infection. Drink plenty of water during the day to flush out the catheter.

Steps to Take

Empty the bag every 3 to 6 hours. Do not wait until it is too heavy. A heavy bag pulls on the catheter. To empty the bag:

  1. Wash and dry your hands.
  2. Record how much urine is in the bag. Use the lines on the bag to measure.
  3. How To Use a Suprapubic Catheter\JPG\Suprapubic_2.jpg Open the clamp on the bag so urine can drain into the toilet. Do not let the bag touch your hands or anything else.
  4. Close the clamp. Wash your hands again.

Change a leg bag every 5 to 7 days. Most night bags may be used once and thrown away. To change the urine bag:

  1. Wash and dry your hands.
  2. Empty the old bag.
  3. Wash your hands again.
  4. Unwrap the new bag and loosen its cap.
  5. How To Use a Suprapubic Catheter\JPG\Suprapubic_8.jpg Disconnect the old bag and throw it away. Use some clean tissue paper under where it joins the catheter in case any urine leaks out.
  6. How To Use a Suprapubic Catheter\JPG\Suprapubic_4.jpg Pick up the new bag, shake the cap off, and connect the inlet of the bag firmly to the catheter.
  7. Secure the bag to your leg or ankle. Make sure the bag is set below the bladder. Fix the tubing so it will not bend or tangle. Use special tape to help it stay in place.

To care for the catheter site:

  • Check the skin around the catheter to make sure there is no redness or swelling. Also, there should not be any pain.
  • Do not use lotions or creams on the skin around the catheter.
  • Change the catheter every 4 to 6 weeks.

Call your doctor right away if the catheter falls out. The opening will start to close in a few days.

A Common Question

Q. My clothes or bedding get wet sometimes. Is this normal?

A. This can be a sign the catheter or bag is leaking. Call your doctor to have it fixed.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of the these happen:

  • Lasting pain or cramps
  • Urine stops for 2 or 3 hours
  • Bloody urine
  • Urine that is cloudy
  • Irritation around the opening in the belly
  • Signs of infection such as fever or chills
  • An unusual, strong smelling discharge
  • Urinary spasms—cause sharp pains in the lower part of the belly
  • The catheter falls out
  • Urine leaks around the catheter

Urology Care Foundation

United Spinal Association


Health Canada

The Canadian Continence Foundation


Bladder catheterization. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-tests-and-procedures/bladder-catheterization. Updated September 2017. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Placement and management of urinary bladder catheters in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T921376/Placement-and-management-of-urinary-bladder-catheters-in-adults. Updated September 5, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Suprapubic Catheter Care: Performing. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated December 8, 2017. Accessed May 8, 2019.

Urinary incontinence. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/urinary-incontinence. Accessed April 29, 2019.

Last reviewed March 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Shawna Grubb, RN  Last Updated: 4/29/2019