Topic Overview

Intermittent catheterization programs (ICPs) are often used
when you have the ability to use a
catheter yourself or someone can do it for you. You
insert the catheter-a thin, flexible, hollow tube-through the
urethra into the
bladder and allow the urine to drain out. It is done
at scheduled times, and the catheter is not permanent.

general, an ICP requires that you limit your fluids. You and your doctor will
figure out how much fluid you can consume each day and what times are best to
use the catheter.

How to use the catheter

Following is a general
outline of the procedure. Your rehabilitation (rehab) team or doctor will show you and/or a
loved one how to perform a catheterization.


  • Be sure you have everything you need. This
    typically includes a catheter, a water-based lubricant, a container to collect
    the urine, latex or medical gloves, and cleansing equipment, such as cotton
    balls, paper towels, soap, and antiseptics.
  • Wash your hands
    thoroughly with soap and water, and put on the gloves. Gloves are optional.
  • Get into a
    position that is most comfortable for you and/or your
  • Wash the tip of your penis with soap and water, or use
    an antiseptic.
  • Position the end of the catheter so that urine can flow out into
    a collection container.
  • Lubricate about
    2 in. (5.1 cm) of the tip of
    the catheter.


  • If you are not circumcised, pull back the
    foreskin and keep it back during the procedure.
  • Hold your penis
    straight out in front of you, so its head is pointing away from your body. You
    may also hold it erect, so that it is pointing up.
  • Gently insert
    the catheter into the
    urethra, the opening in the penis. If you feel
    resistance, pause for a few minutes and then gently press the catheter in
    again. If you cannot insert the catheter, do not force it. Stop, and call your
  • When urine begins to flow, insert the catheter about
    2 in. (5.1 cm) more into the
  • When the urine stops flowing, press your abdomen or tighten
    the abdomen muscles. This helps to completely empty the
  • Remove the catheter slowly. If urine begins to flow again,
    stop removing the catheter until the urine flow stops.
  • Wash your
    hands, or take off your gloves.
  • Examine the urine. If it is
    cloudy, has blood in it, or there has been a change in color or odor, call your

Catheter care

One-time-use catheters can be thrown away after each use. If you have a reusable catheter, you will need to wash and dry it after each use. To clean your catheter:

  • Wash the catheter with soap and water, or put
    it in an antiseptic solution.
  • Rinse the catheter, inside and out,
    with clean water. Some people use a syringe to push soapy water through the
  • Dry the catheter. Place it on a clean towel, fold the
    towel over, and hang the towel on a rack.
  • When the catheter is dry,
    place it in a plastic bag.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Nancy Greenwald, MD – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017