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Urinary catheterization acts as a substitute for the body's ability to urinate. Catheters are devices which drain urine from the bladder.

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Urinary catheters are small hollow tubes which are inserted into the body through the urethra or through a small hole created in the abdominal wall called a suprapubic cystostomy. The catheter runs up into the bladder and drains urine out of the body and into a urinary bag for disposal.

Catheters are most commonly manufactured from latex, silicone and hydrogel coated silicone, and can be sterile or non-sterile. They are available in both male and female lengths. Catheters are useful for people who are incontinent of urine and prone to leakage or may not be able to control when they urinate.

Catheters are categorized into two groups based on the how long they can be in use. - Intermittent: removed immediately after use. - Indwelling: can be left in situ for up to one week (short term) or for six weeks to three months (long term).

While intermittent catheterization can help to encourage normal bladder function, continuous catheterization can result in reliance. If not performed correctly catheterization can cause injury to the bladder and urethra, and urinary tract infections. Proper sterilisation and infection control regimes should be strictly adhered to before and after catheterization.

To prevent these complications you should; - Wash your hands before and after using the catheter. - Clean the catheter and the insertion site with soap and water daily. - If inserting a catheter via the urethra, clean the genital area thoroughly after bowel movements. - Dispose of intermittent catheters as per instructions. - Drink plenty of fluids as this can help prevent infections.