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Learning About Urinary Catheterization in Children

Catheter tube running from inside the bladder to outside the body in male and female bodies

What is it?

Urinary catheterization is a procedure to drain urine from the bladder. It's done with a plastic tube (catheter). The tube is passed through the urethra to the bladder. Some catheters are used to a collect a urine sample. They are then removed. Others stay in place to drain urine for a longer time.

Why is it done?

Your child may need a urinary catheterization if:

  • A sample of urine is needed quickly.
  • Your child is too young to urinate when asked.
  • Your child has a health problem that makes your child unable to urinate on their own.
  • Your doctor needs to test your infant's urine for signs of infection.
  • Your child is having a procedure or surgery that will cause your child to be unable to urinate on their own for a period of time.
  • Your child is very ill, and doctors need to measure how much urine your child makes.

How is it done?

A health professional will place a small, flexible tube called a catheter into your child's urethra and guide it into the bladder. The urethra carries urine outside the body from the bladder.

Sometimes a catheter is used just to get a urine sample. In that case, it will be taken out after the sample is collected. If the catheter is going to be left in place for a longer time, the tip of it will stay in your child's bladder. It will be held in place by a small balloon. The other end of the catheter will be attached to a bag. The bag will collect the urine.

What can you expect afterward?

A catheter can cause discomfort. But your child should feel better after it's removed. It's common for the urine to have a pink tint after catheterization. This is from a small amount of blood in the urine. If your child goes home with a catheter, you'll get instructions for how to care for it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's 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 your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.