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Intermittent Catheters: The Ideal Length of time to leave your IC in

18/1/2024
a woman sitting in a chair ;

The Ideal Length of Time to Leave Your Intermittent Catheter In

Intermittent catheters: one crucial question

For individuals who have urinary complications their bladders naturally, intermittent
catheterisation plays a vital role in long-term bladder management, standing out from
permanent catheter options because of its temporary placement, which can feel a little less
invasive. Because it’s “intermittent” catheterisation, this means putting them in and taking them
out: but how long for? Let’s explore some of the factors that will help inform and guide your
catheter experience.

Long-term Bladder Management with Intermittent Catheterisation

When it comes to long-term bladder management, intermittent catheters are often preferred to
permanent catheters due to the flexibility they afford their users and the lower risk of health
complications. Indwelling catheters obviously have their advantages, like needing to be changed
less often, but this usually has to be done by a nurse[1], therefore offering a little less flexibility
and personal freedom as with an IC.
Conversely, unlike with an indwelling catheter, the main consideration with self intermittent
catheterisation is the timing: how often should you catheterise and how many times a day?

Like you, your catheterising experience will be unique

Starting out, you'll be on a schedule, catheterising every four to six hours. The golden rule is to
keep your bladder from filling up past 500 milliliters[2]. As you become more attuned to your body,
you'll fine-tune your timing.

One handy rule of thumb is to think of that 500ml limit. So, for example, if you've consumed
500mls of fluid, that's your cue to use your catheter.

With time, you'll begin to think less with schedule or milliliters and begin being able to go by
paying attention to your body's signals. If you feel the urge to go and you haven't hit that
500-milliliter mark, go ahead and use your catheter. It's all about finding what works best for
you, as people’s bladders, just like people themselves, are all a little bit different. If your signal to
go is different to someone else’s, or comes before you’re at 500mls, that’s totally fine and that’s
what will work for you.

Overnight Catheter Use

While intermittent catheters are typically used during waking hours, there are instances where
overnight catheterisation may be necessary. This decision should be made in consultation with a
healthcare provider, who will consider factors like bladder capacity, urine output, and overall
health when determining if overnight catheterisation is a good move for you. It's important to
note that overnight use may require different catheter types or additional measures to ensure
comfort and prevent complications[3]

Time is of the essence

While your catheterisation schedule generally won’t differ between men and women and should,
again, largely be governed by your own specific urinary and bladder needs, the process of
self-catheterisation itself may differ between men and women. For instance, some women need
a bit of extra time, early on, to help locate the urethra, while men may need practise at getting
the catheter past their sphincter muscles. The important thing is to not leave anything too late
and, on top of your need to pass urine, allow a bit of extra time up front to manage your needs
with enough time to spare, rather than needing to rush.

Common Concerns and Considerations

When using an intermittent catheter, because you’ll largely be handling the process yourself, it's
important to be aware of the potential risks and, where possible, take steps to minimise them.
Follow-ups with your health provider will help keep you on the right track, as well as staying on
top of, and preventing, potential infections as well as any practical mishaps as you get used to
the whole process. If you experience any complications or have concerns about your
catheterisation routine, don't hesitate to reach out to your medical professional for advice and
support.

Conclusion

So, there you have it. Whether you're considering intermittent catheterisation for the first time or
you're a seasoned professional, understanding the ideal duration for catheter use is crucial. The
key takeaway is that the duration varies significantly based on individual needs and
circumstances, and consulting with healthcare professionals to determine the best course of
action for your situation is never a bad idea

[1] Urology & Continence Care Today. (2023 October). Best Practice in the use of indwelling
catheterisation. Urology & Continence Care Today. https://www.ucc-today.com/journals/issue/launch-edition/article/best-practice-in-the-use-of-indwelling-cath
eterisation


[2] Department of Health. (n. d.). Your self-intermittent catheter. HealthyWA.
https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/U_Z/Your-self-intermittent-catheter


[3] Ibid. Caring for your catheter. https://www.healthywa.wa.gov.au/Articles/A_E/Caring-for-your-catheter

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