Problems With Urinary Catheters

Updated April 17, 2017

Individuals wearing catheters, in either a hospital or home setting, may be susceptible to urinary tract infection or other issues if catheters are not properly cared for. Catheters are often used for patients who have difficulty urinating, those recuperating from serious injuries or illness, and for long term care in the elderly when mobility or organ function prevents them from controlling their own urinary function. The catheter (a flexible tube) is inserted into the bladder and drains urine through the tube into a container that must be emptied regularly. If not adequately cared for, problems may occur.

Problems with the Catheter Balloon

The tip of the catheter placed into the bladder has an inflatable "balloon" on the tip, which when inflated prevents the catheter from slipping out. In some cases, the balloon can tear or break while the catheter is being inserted through the urethra into the bladder. In other situations, the balloon may fail to inflate. In such cases, the doctor will need to remove the catheter and insert a new one.

Blockage of Urine Flow

The catheter regularly drains urine from the bladder into the collection bag. In the case of an improperly inserted catheter, urine will be unable to flow into the bag. If the catheter tubing is crimped or bent at any point from the bladder to the bag, urine may be blocked. The catheter tubing must be checked regularly to insure adequate flow of urine, and the bag emptied before it becomes so full that no more urine can flow into the bag.


The longer a catheter is in place, the greater the chance that the patient may end up with a urinary tract or bladder infection. It is essential that the patient or the health care workers, depending on situation, keep the catheter tubing clean and prevent it from dragging on the floor. Personal hygiene is important in keeping the genital area clean and dry. In a hospital setting, medical personnel will regularly check catheter placement and watch for signs of infection. At home, patients who notice any sign of redness, swelling, bloody discharge, fever or lower abdominal pain should seek medical advice from their physician or a hospital emergency room.

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About the Author

Denise Stern is an experienced freelance writer and editor. She has written professionally for more than seven years. Stern regularly provides content for health-related and elder-care websites and has an associate and specialized business degree in health information management and technology.