Frequently Asked Questions on Foley Indwelling Catheters


What are long term (indwelling) catheters?

An indwelling urethal catheter also known as "foley" catheter is a closed, sterile system inserted into the urethra to allow the bladder to drain. A catheter is left in place for a period of time and is attached to a drainage bag to collect the urine. These catheters are usually inserted by a doctor and nurse.

Drainage bags for long term catheters:

  • There are two types of drainage bags.
  1. A leg bag is a smaller drainage device that attaches to the leg by elastic bands. A leg bag is usually used during the day since it is easy to hide it under pants or skirts, and can be emptied into a toilet.
  2. An overnight bag is a bag with a long tube that is used during the night. The bag should be hung over the side of the bed below the level of your catheter so that the urine will flow easily.
Who requires indwelling or Foley catheters?

It is required by people with urinary incontinence or retention that cannot be treated by other methods like surgery, medications or intermittent catheterization.
An indwelling catheter is also required by people with skin irritation or pressure ulcers (stage 3 or 4) that are caused by incontinence.
It is also used in situations when a person is homebound and a family member or a caregiver is not available to help.

What is a Foley catheter?

Foley catheter, also known as an indwelling catheter, is a thin tube made of flexible material which is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder for draining urine. It is regarded as the most common type of indwelling urinary catheter.

When is a Foley catheter used?

Foley catheter is used for individuals who have incontinence issue and find it difficult to pass urine the normal way. A Foley catheter may also be required for use on a patient soon after surgery.

What precautions should be taken during catheterization?

Catheter insertion may cause slight irritation within the urethra and therefore, care must be taken during insertion to avoid injuries. It is also important for users to wear loose cotton clothes to keep the Foley catheter free from accidental pulls. Hygiene should be maintained in the genital area to prevent infections, etc.

How to remove a Foley catheter?
  • Drain out the urine from the urinary bag
  • Wash hands well with soap and warm water and dry them
  • Take a syringe and push it into the balloon port on the catheter fitting it well into the port in a push-and-twist motion
  • Allow water from the balloon to fill into the syringe. Repeat this until the balloon has emptied out
  • Once the balloon is deflated, pull out the catheter very gently
  • Throw away the catheter and the syringe
  • Wash your hands again
When to seek medical care for Foley catheter complications?

A Foley catheter user should seek medical attention if there are symptoms of infection which includes fever, abdominal pain, swelling in the genital and urethral area or burning sensation. Immediate doctor’s advice should also be sought if the urine in the urinary drainage bag is pink or red or there is bleeding from the urethra.

How to insert Foley catheter in a male?
  • Ask the patient to lie in a supine position with legs spread and feet together
  • Wash hands and put on sterile gloves
  • Open the assembly of catheter
  • Scrub the urethral opening on the penis with a disinfectant-soaked cotton cloth or wipes 
  • Rinse the area well with sterile water or alcohol
  • Apply lubricant to the catheter tip  
  • Hold the penis and insert catheter into the urethral opening  
  • Push it in until the catheter sits within the bladder
  • Inflate the balloon with sterile water so that it does not displace the catheter
  • Connect the catheter to a urinary drainage bag
  • Place the urinary drainage bag lower than the patient’s bladder  
  • Secure the catheter to the patient’s abdomen or thigh using tape
How to insert Foley catheter in a female?
  • Ask the patient to lie in a supine position with legs spread and feet together
  • Wash hands and put on sterile gloves
  • Open the assembly of catheter
  • Scrub the labia and urethral meatus with a disinfectant-soaked cotton cloth or wipes. Rinse the area well with sterile water or alcohol
  • Start cleaning from the urethral opening and work your way outwards thus ensuring the urethra is not contaminated
  • Place drainage basin containing catheter between the thighs of the patient
  • Apply lubricant to the catheter tip  
  • Hold the labia open and insert catheter into urethral meatus
  • Push it until the catheter sits in place 
  • Inflate the balloon with sterile water so that it does not displace the catheter
  • It is advisable to inflate a 5cc balloon with 7-10cc of sterile water and a 30cc balloon with 30-35cc of sterile water.
  • Place the urinary drainage bag lower than the patient’s bladder
  • Secure the catheter to the patient’s abdomen or thigh using tape