Medical Q&As

Male with catheter - hygiene?

My father recently had a catheter fitted. After a day or two the urine drainage bag becomes very smelly and has to be changed. How often should these bags be changed and could the smell be a sign of infection?

I assume from your question that your father is at home in which case I would suggest that you contact the local public health nurse for the area in which he resides. The nurse would be able to advise you and your father on day the to day management of the catheter and drainage system. Some drainage bags, such as leg bags and bedside drainage bags can be used for up to two weeks once they are properly maintained. Such bags can be washed, rinsed and air-dried and then be safely used again. Other types of bags and fittings have a shorter life span and ought to be discarded sooner. The nurse could also advise and source various incontinence related products that would be of further help to your father. Smell can be an indicator of infection but since urine is a waste fluid that contains nitrogen related products it may have a strong odour even when it is not infected. Whenever a catheter is being used long term the risk of urinary infection exists. It is extremely important to wash hands before and after emptying the bag in order to avoid introducing infection into the drainage system and also to avoid the carer being contaminated with bacteria. In summary there are many different types of bag available and their recommended duration of use can vary.