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Urinary catheter removal

We explain what happens during urinary catheter removal

Doctor holds a urinary catheter after it's been removed from a patient's bladder
Catheter removal is when your urinary catheter is taken out of your bladder. It is sometimes referred to as trial of void. The procedure is normally quick and painless.

A catheter is a thin flexible tube that drains urine out of your bladder into a bag. You may have a catheter inserted during surgery, or if you have difficulty passing urine naturally, or due to bladder weakness or nerve damage. A catheter can remain in place from a few hours to several months.

Although some catheters can be removed at home by yourself, others will need to be removed in one of our clinics by a trained professional, for example a consultant gynaecologist or urologist.

This page explains what catheter removal is, what happens during the procedure and what to expect afterwards.

There are several different types of urinary catheters, including:

Intermittent urinary catheter

This is a type of catheter that is inserted several times a day to drain urine from your bladder, after which it is removed. Your consultant will teach you how to do this yourself.

Indwelling catheter

This type of catheter is inserted through the urethra (the tube you pass urine from) into your bladder and a balloon is inflated to hold the catheter in place. It can stay in place for several weeks or months.

Suprapubic catheter

This is a type of long-term catheter that is inserted into your bladder through a small incision (cut) in your lower abdomen. A suprapubic catheter may be used if your urethra is damaged or blocked, or if you need to have the catheter in place for a longer period.

You do not need to do anything to prepare for your catheter removal. Your consultant may prescribe antibiotics before your catheter is removed to prevent a urinary tract infection.

Your catheter will be removed by a consultant urological surgeon, a doctor specialising in operations on the urinary system.

At your catheter removal appointment:

  1. You will be asked to lie flat on the examination bed, facing up
  2. Your urinary bag will be emptied
  3. Your consultant will use a syringe to empty the balloon that holds the catheter in place
  4. You will be asked to take some deep breaths as the catheter is gently removed. This should not be painful, but there may be some slight discomfort. The process takes a few seconds

After your catheter removal, you can go home straight away and resume normal activities as soon as you feel able.

You may experience bladder weakness and irritation for the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours after your catheter removal. Don’t force yourself to urinate or strain to have a bowel movement during this time. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can further irritate your bladder.

You may experience:

  • Soreness or stinging when urinating
  • Hesitancy (difficulty starting to urinate)
  • Frequency (needing to urinate more often)
  • Difficulty holding your urine
  • Pinkish urine

Some men experience pain and burning at the tip of their penis for a few days after catheter removal. Contact your consultant if this lasts longer than three days.

Don’t drink excessive amounts of water after your catheter removal as this can overfill your bladder and cause problems urinating. Aim to drink one 200ml glass of water every one to two hours during the day.

The main risks of catheter removal are urinary retention and urinary tract infection (UTI).

Urinary retention

This is when you are unable to pass urine after your catheter has been removed.

Symptoms of urinary retention include:

  • Feeling the urgent need to pass urine, but being unable to
  • Passing very small amounts of urine or dribbling urine
  • Pain and discomfort in your lower abdomen
  • Swelling in your lower abdomen

Urinary tract infection (UTI)

UTIs are a common complication of having a urinary catheter and occur when bacteria or fungi enter the urinary tract.

Symptoms of UTI include:

  • Pain, spasms, or pressure in your lower back or abdomen
  • Pain or burning when urinating
  • Passing urine frequently
  • Needing to pass urine urgently
  • Fever (a temperature above 38C)
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Cloudy or abnormally coloured urine
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion (particularly in the elderly)

Contact your healthcare provider immediately after your catheter removal if you:

  • Have a fever over 38C
  • Cannot pass urine after eight hours
  • Have pain or swelling in your lower abdomen
  • Have pain when urinating that continues for more than twenty-four hours
  • Feel like your bladder is not emptying properly
  • Notice a lot of blood in your urine

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about catheter removal.

Why can't I urinate after catheter removal?

It can take 24 to 48 hours for your bladder to settle down after catheter removal. Try to drink one glass of water every one to two hours and allow urine to pass on its own without forcing or straining. If you are unable to pass urine after eight hours contact your healthcare provider.

How long does it take to urinate after catheter removal?

You should first try to urinate around two and a half to three hours after your catheter removal. After this, keep trying regularly, but don't force or strain. If you can't pass urine after eight hours, contact your healthcare provider.

Do you have to re-train your bladder after catheter removal?

Bladder training is a way of gradually teaching your bladder to hold urine for longer and is particularly useful if you have urge incontinence (a need to urinate straight away). If you would like to know more about bladder training, make an appointment with one of our specialist urology consultants.

Is it painful to remove a catheter?

Catheter removal should not be painful, but you may experience mild discomfort for a few seconds as the tube is removed.

How do you remove a catheter at home?

Your consultant will teach you how to remove your catheter at home if necessary. Don't remove your catheter unless your consultant tells you to, and you fully understand how to remove it yourself. Call the hospital if you have any questions or concerns about removing your catheter at home.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about catheter removal, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

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