A urinary catheter is a small, soft tube placed in the bladder. This article addresses urinary catheters in babies.
Why is a urinary catheter used?
Babies need urinary catheters if they are not making much urine. Babies can have low urine because they:
Have low blood pressure
Have an abnormally developed urinary system
Take medicines that will not allow them to move their muscles, such as when a child is on a ventilator
When your baby has a catheter, doctors and nurses can measure how much urine is coming out. They can figure out how much fluid your baby needs.
How is a urinary catheter placed?
A doctor or nurse puts the catheter into the urethra and up into the bladder. The urethra is the opening at the tip of the penis in boys and near the vagina in girls. The doctor or nurse will:
Clean the tip of the penis or around the vagina.
Gently put the catheter into the bladder.
If a Foley catheter is used, there is a very small balloon on the end of the catheter in the bladder. This is filled with a small amount of water to keep the catheter from falling out.
The catheter is connected to a bag for the urine to go into.
This bag is emptied into a measuring cup to see how much urine your baby is making.
What are the risks of a urinary catheter?
There is a small risk of injury to the urethra or the bladder when the catheter is inserted. Urinary catheters that are left in place for more than a few days increase the risk for a bladder or kidney infection.
Kimberly G Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.