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Nephrostomy Tube Care: Care Instructions

Location of kidneys and bladder in body, showing urine bag outside body and detail of tube draining urine from kidney

Your Care Instructions

A nephrostomy tube is a thin catheter placed into your kidney to drain urine. You may have one tube in a kidney or two tubes, one in each kidney. The urine collects in a bag attached to the tube. In most cases, the bag is attached to your leg. Sometimes the catheter tube has a valve that lets you drain the urine into the toilet or other container.

You may need a nephrostomy tube if you have a blockage or a hole in your urinary tract. The blockage may be caused by a kidney stone, infection, scar tissue, or a mass.

If you have only one tube, you will still need to urinate as usual. Your other kidney will still produce urine that will drain into your bladder.

Having a nephrostomy tube in place increases the risk of getting an infection. Caring for this tube as you have been instructed will help to prevent infection.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

    Your healthcare team will arrange home care for you before you are discharged. Talk to your doctor about when and how to exchange your tubes. This should be done at regular intervals.

    Looking after your tube at home:
    • Wash your hands before you handle the nephrostomy tube.
    • Clean the area around the tube with soap and water every day.
    • Keep the drainage bag lower than your kidney to keep urine from backing up.
    • If you have been told you can reuse your bag, you can clean the bag after removing it from the tube. Use another container to collect your urine while you clean the bag. To clean the bag, fill it with 2 parts vinegar to 3 parts water, and let it stand for 20 minutes. Then empty it out, and let it air dry.
    • Empty the drainage bag before it is completely full or every 2 to 3 hours.
    • Do not swim or take baths while you have a nephrostomy tube. You can shower after wrapping the end of the nephrostomy tube with plastic wrap.
    • Change the dressing around the nephrostomy tube about every 3 days or when it gets wet or dirty. A nurse will teach you how to change the dressing.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms of infection. These may include:
    • Pain or burning when you urinate.
    • A frequent need to urinate without being able to pass much urine.
    • Pain in the flank, which is just below the rib cage and above the waist on either side of the back.
    • Blood in the urine.
    • a fever.
  • You are vomiting or nauseated.
  • Your tube leaks.
  • Urine does not collect in the drainage bag.
  • You have pain or bleeding around the tube.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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