Foley Catheter

Risks & Benefit

A Foley Catheter is the most common type of indwelling catheter.

It consists of a flexible rubber tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra, the tube that leads from the bladder to the outside of the body.

If you are already familiar with the risks and benefits of a indwelling catheter and are looking for a Foley Catheter Care Guide, click on the link to be directed to the appropriate page.

Once inserted and anchored, the tube is then attached to a drainage bag. Urine will flow from the bladder, down the tubing and into the bag, which can be easily emptied.

The tube is anchored in the bladder by inflating a small balloon. This balloon prevents the tube from slipping out.

The catheter bag is traditionally changed weekly to help prevent infection. If you don't have a licensed nurse coming into your home to do this for you, you can order a DOVERTM PRECISIONTM Standard Drainage Bag, 2000cc - Each replacement bag and change yourself once you have received the proper instructions.

If your doctor did not provide instructions, please contact me through my contact form and I will answer any questions you have.

You can also order replacement Leg Bags W/ Comfort Strap - Leg Bag w/Twist Valve - Large (32 oz.). This is a leg bag usually used for men with indwelling urinary catheters.

I would also recommend ordering urine dipsticks if you are comfortable using them. Always remember to test fresh urine that collects immediately after a bag change and not urine that has been allowed to settle in the bag for any period of time.

An easy dipstick to use is the Rapid Response Urine Dipstick .

If you get abnormal results, make sure to notify your physician for follow up and treatment. Keep a close eye on the expiration date. Once the test strips are expired, the results can be erroneous.


Although a small percentage of people may be able to use an indwelling catheter on a long term basis to manage incontinence, there are so many risks associated with long term use that it is only a viable option for a few, select cases.

Your doctor will let you know if this is a SAFE and effective option for to use at home. Understanding the risks associated with long term use can help you decide, with your doctor's help, if this is something you want to try.

Some of the primary risks associated with indwelling catheter use on a long term basis include:

  • Urinary Tract Infection: The risk of getting a UTI increases with each day a foley catheter is left in.

  • Kidney Infection: Chronic UTI's can lead to infections of the kidneys and repeated kidney infections can easily lead to kidney damage.

  • Blood Infections: Called sepsis, blood infections are more likely when a foley catheter is used long term.

  • Damage to the urethra and bladder from the tubing itself.

  • Development of bladder and/or kidney stones.

The risks associated with long term use of an indwelling catheter are so high in the elderly that as a Director of Nursing in a Long Term Care Facility, we were only allowed (by state and federal guidelines) to have a urinary catheter in place for specific, medical situations.

Federal nursing home regulations mandate that catheters cannot be used for convenience or to manage general incontinence.

If you are considering this option to manage incontinence, think it through carefully:

  1. Are you doing it for your convenience as a caregiver only?
  2. Is it medically necessary for your family member?
  3. Is it worth the risks associated with an indwelling catheter?


There are some specific situations where the use of a catheter is medically necessary and the benefits outweigh the associated risks.

  • If your loved one is unable to pass urine due a neurological disease and a physical obstruction.

  • To help prevent infection if urine contamination of wounds or pressure ulcers is likely.

  • To monitor exact urine output.

  • If your loved one is terminally or severely ill and changing clothing and bedding is painful.

These are the only situations where long term use of an indwelling catheter is appropriate per federal guidelines.

If you have discussed and reviewed the use of a catheter with your doctor and have decided that this option is appropriate for your situation, please review the Care Guide article to help you safely manage this urine collection device at home

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