Urinary catheters are used in many different medical situations. They are an extremely common medical intervention. Catheters can be used to temporarily ease the distention of the bladder, or can be indwelling for hours to days and months. While urinary catheters are a common and safe medical practice, complications can and do arise from their use. Call a health care provider in the event of fever, pain during or after urination, abdominal discomfort, a powerful urge to void, frequent urination or urine that is cloudy, bloody or foul smelling.
Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder and is most frequently caused by bacteria in the bladder due to a urinary tract infection, but can also be caused by certain drugs, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and long-term use of a urinary catheter. According to MayoClinic.com, symptoms of cystitis may include a frequent urge to urinate; cloudy, blood-tinged or strong smelling urine; feelings of pressure in the abdomen; or possibly a low-grade fever. Treatment for cystitis will be determined by the cause; cystitis caused by a urinary catheter may be treated by removal of the catheter as well as the use of medications that would help relieve some of the discomfort symptoms.
Urinary Tract Infection
Together the kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra form the urinary tract in humans. An infection in any part of this system is called a urinary tract infection, or UTI. The National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse cites urinary catheters as a potential cause of UTIs. Urinary catheters are inserted for a multitude of medical reasons and are placed during a procedure intended to be sterile. The insertion of the catheter and the fact that it remains indwelling for a period of time increases the potential for infection. Symptoms of a UTI are similar to those of cystitis and can vary from person to person. Potential symptoms include frequent voiding; powerful urge to urinate; cloudy, bloody or foul smelling urine; fever; and pain and discomfort in the abdomen, including immediately following urination.
Blood in the Urine and Latex Allergy
The use of a urinary catheter may also cause a small amount of blood in the urine. This blood is typically caused by irritation of the ureters and bladder by the catheter itself. Blood may also be present if there is an infection in the urinary tract.
Urinary catheters are typically made of latex. Allergies or sensitivities to latex should be reported to the health care provider before a latex urinary catheter is placed to avoid complications. If the allergy or sensitivity to latex is discovered because of the use of the urinary catheter, redness, irritation, itching, blood in the urine as well as abdominal pain and discomfort may occur.
Difficulty Urinating After Catheter Removal
After the urinary catheter is removed, some individuals have difficulty urinating. A fullness in the bladder and an urge to void may be present, but without the ability to pass urine. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center suggests setting a child in a bath of warm water to help ease him into urinating again. The water should be just deep enough to cover the child's genitals. Adults can also try the warm bath, but in either case if no voiding has occurred in six to eight hours, the health care provider should be contacted. Occasionally, straight cathing--inserting a catheter that is not indwelling but is placed only to relieve the bladder and then removed--will help to establish a voiding pattern after an indwelling catheter.