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If you have been told you need to do intermittent self-catheterization, it is because your bladder does not empty completely or perhaps it does not empty at all. There are many causes for this problem: stroke, spinal cord injury, diabetes, spina bifida, and obstruction to the outflow of urine are the most common reasons. Sometimes after an operation on the colon such as a colostomy, the bladder does not empty well and patients may need to catheterize themselves for several weeks or months until the bladder begins to function normally again. It is also not unusual for a woman to need to do intermittent self-catheterization after a bladder neck sling operation. This may be required for several days, weeks, or months. Sometimes this procedure is taught to patients prior to their surgery.

When you are catheterizing yourself or regularly catheterizing someone in your home, it is not necessary to use sterile procedure. Cleanliness is all that is necessary, unless your doctor tells you otherwise and there is a medical reason for sterility. Research has shown that if the bladder is emptied regularly and completely before it gets overstretched, there is little likelihood of infection.

The doctor or nurse who has told you that you need to catheterize and who has taught you the procedure, will tell you how often you should drain your bladder with the catheter. As a general rule, you will want to be on a schedule during the day in which you drain the bladder before it has more than 12 oz. (360 ml.) to 13 oz. (390 ml.). It is very important to avoid bladder over-distension in order to facilitate the return to normal bladder function. Thus, if your catheterized volumes are above 400 ml, it will be necessary to increase the frequency of the catheterization.

Self-catheterization sounds frightening to many people. It seems as if it would be painful or embarrassing. In fact, it is amazingly easy and there is rarely any discomfort. You need to relax and take some deep breaths before you start.


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