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Discharge Instructions: Self-Catheterization for People with a Penis

Your healthcare provider has prescribed self-catheterization for you. This is because you are having trouble urinating naturally. This problem can be caused by injury, disease, infection, or other conditions. Self-catheterization simply means putting a clean, thin, flexible tube (catheter) through the penis and into the bladder to empty urine. This helps you empty your bladder when it won’t empty by itself or empty all the way. You were shown in the hospital how to do self-catheterization. The steps below should help you remember how to do it correctly.

Gather your supplies

You will need:

  • Soap and warm water or a moist towelette

  • Clean catheter

  • Water-soluble lubricating jelly (not petroleum jelly)

  • Toilet or basin

Get ready

  • Wash your hands and your penis. Use warm soapy water. You can also use a moist towelette.

  • Lubricate the catheter with the water-soluble lubricating jelly.

    • Lubricate 2 to 4 inches of the catheter tip.

    • Place the other end of the catheter over the toilet or basin.

    Closeup of hands applying lubricant to urinary catheter.
    Lubricate catheter.

Empty your bladder

  • Insert the catheter.

    • Grasp the tip of your penis, holding your penis horizontally from your body.

    • Slowly put the catheter into your urethra. If it doesn’t go in, do this: Take a deep breath and bear down as if you're trying to urinate.

    • If you feel a sharp pain, remove the catheter. Then try again.

    Closeup of hands inserting catheter into penis.
    Insert catheter.

  • Empty your bladder.

    • When the urine starts to flow, stop inserting the catheter.

    • Slightly lower your penis.

    • When the urine stops flowing, slowly remove the catheter.

    Hand holding catheter draining urine from bladder into toilet.
    Empty urine.

Catheter care

If you use a disposable catheter, use a new one each time you empty your bladder. Throw the catheter away when you’re done. If your catheters are reusable, do the following after each use:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water.

  • Clean the catheter with soap and warm water.

  • Rinse the catheter, making sure there is no soap left inside or on it.

  • Dry the outside of the catheter.

  • Store the catheter in a clean, dry container, such as a plastic bag that seals at the top.

  • Throw away a catheter if the plastic looks cloudy.

  • Wash your hands again. If you used a basin, wash it out.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment, or as directed.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Fever above 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Chills

  • Burning in the urinary tract, penis, or pubic area

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Aching in your lower back

  • Cloudy urine or sediment or mucus in the urine

  • Bloody (pink or red) urine or bad-smelling urine

© 2000-2023 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.