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How to irrigate foley catheters

Updated June 13, 2017

A Foley catheter is a narrow, flexible tube that is inserted through the urethra to drain urine from the bladder. Catheter irrigation is performed by the patient, a health care professional or a trained caregiver for different reasons, such as to clear clots from the catheter tubing or to flush blood from the bladder following a medical procedure. A catheter irrigation tray that includes a solution container and a catheter tip syringe is needed to perform this procedure. The catheter tip syringe may have a bulb or a plunger on one end. Irrigating a Foley catheter increases the risk of introducing bacteria to the bladder or urethra, so it should only be performed after receiving a physician's order. The order should contain the frequency of irrigation, type of irrigation solution and amount of irrigation solution.

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  1. Wash your hands with soap and tap water, then dry well. Put on the gloves.

  2. Open the catheter irrigation kit. Fill the enclosed catheter tip syringe with the ordered amount of sterile normal saline or the irrigation solution preferred by the physician, and place it back in the kit.

  3. Place a towel or drape beneath the connection of the Foley catheter tubing and the drainage bag tubing.

  4. Cleanse the site where the catheter tubing and drainage bag tubing connect with an alcohol swab. Allow to air dry.

  5. Grasp the Foley catheter tubing with one hand where it meets the drainage bag tubing. Grasp the drainage bag tubing in the other hand. Gently pull the two tubes apart.

  6. Place a catheter plug in the opened end of the drainage bag tubing, and set aside.

  7. Insert an empty catheter tip syringe into the end of the Foley catheter tubing and pull back on the plunger, or squeeze and release the bulb, to see if any urine is in the bladder. Drain the urine, then remove the syringe.

  8. Insert the catheter tip of the syringe filled with irrigation solution into the open end of the Foley catheter tubing. Slowly and gently squeeze the fluid into the catheter.

  9. Pull back on the plunger, or let go of the bulb, so the fluid re-enters the catheter tip syringe.

  10. Cleanse the connection site of the syringe and catheter tubing with a second alcohol swab. Allow to air dry.

  11. Remove the catheter plug from the drainage bag, and cleanse the open tip of the tubing with a third alcohol swab. Allow to air dry.

  12. Pinch the catheter tubing about an inch from the end of the Foley catheter, and carefully pull to remove the catheter tip syringe.

  13. Reconnect the Foley catheter tubing and the drainage bag tubing.

  14. Wash your hands with tap water and soap.

  15. Tip

    The amount of fluid removed from the bladder after the irrigation should be equal to or greater than the fluid that was inserted into the bladder. The irrigation solution must be room temperature. Never use a cold solution to irrigate a Foley catheter. Inform the patient he may feel an uncomfortable sensation, but he should not feel pain.


    Never force fluid into the catheter. If you feel resistance, gently pull back the catheter tip syringe plunger, or release the bulb, then try to administer more fluid. If you still feel resistance, stop administering the fluid and call the physician. Never jerk or pull on the Foley catheter tubing. Avoid touching the ends of the Foley catheter tube, drainage bag tube or the catheter tip syringe.

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Things You'll Need

  • Soap
  • Tap water
  • Pair of gloves
  • Catheter irrigation kit with an enclosed catheter tip syringe
  • Sterile normal saline or solution ordered by physician
  • Towel or drape
  • Three alcohol swabs
  • Catheter plug
  • Catheter tip syringe

About the Author

Jennifer S. Wright

Since 2008, Jennifer S. Wright has written articles on a variety of topics including parenting concerns, medical conditions and nursing issues. Her articles have appeared in "LPN" magazine as well as on various online publications. An LVN since graduating from Weatherford College in 2005, Wright has taken care of elderly, pediatric and obstetric patients in hospital and home health care settings.

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