Female Catheterization

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Short-Term Catheterization

  • Acute urinary retention
  • Collection of uncontaminated urine specimen for analysis, culture, and sensitivity
  • Diagnostic studies and monitoring output
  • Irrigation of the bladder or instillation of medication
  • Bladder drainage after surgery
  • Intermittent (in and out) for neurogenic bladder

Long-Term Catheterization

  • Chronic urinary retention (including neurogenic bladder)
  • Incontinence with complicating skin breakdown
  • Known or suspected urethral disruption resulting from pelvic trauma
  • Recent reconstructive surgery of the urethra or bladder neck (relative contraindication)
  • Known urinary tract obstruction, such as a urethral stricture (relative contraindication)
  • A combative or uncooperative patient (relative contraindication; consider sedation)
  • Acute infection of the urethra (relative contraindication)
  • Urethral catheter (see <Related Reference> Equipment for a discussion of available urethral catheters)
  • Lubricant (about 10 mL, anesthetic lubricant preferred)
  • Sterile towels and gloves
  • Sterile cotton-tipped applicators and antiseptic solution
  • Closed urinary drainage system
  • Urethra
    • The female urethra is approximately 2 inches (~5 cm) long.
  • The female urethral meatus is directly superior to the opening of the vagina and inferior to the glans clitoris.
    • The urethral meatus may be especially difficult to find in the very young infant and the older postmenopausal woman.

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The full content of this section includes:
  • Step-by-step text instructions for performing the procedure
  • Clinical pearls providing practical clinical tips from medical experts
  • Patient safety guidelines consistent with Joint Commission and OHSA standards
  • Links to medical evidence and related procedures

  • Discomfort at the meatus may be reduced by applying petroleum jelly or vitamin E ointment daily.
  • Long-term indwelling catheters usually are replaced every 6 weeks.

Antibiotic Therapy

  • For suspected urinary tract infection or prophylaxis, check culture and sensitivity, and prescribe at least a 3-day course of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Transient hematuria
  • Creation of a false passage or perforation
  • Conversion of a partial urethral tear into a complete tear
  • Urethral stricture
  • Obstruction of flow
  • Pyelonephritis or urosepsis
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