How Long Can a Person Use a Catheter (And Why)?

Exact Answer: About 4-12 weeks

One of the main ways the human body can excrete liquid waste is through the urinary system. The urogenital tract is divided into two parts: The upper tract consisting of kidneys and ureters, where fluid waste is converted from the body, and the lower tract comprising of two components, that are the bladder and the urethra, that store and dispel urine. For problems in the lower urinary tract such as nerve damage or muscular atrophy caused by incontinence, prostate expansion, or urinary retention, the use of a urinary catheter is essential.

For over 3500 years, the urine from the bladder has been drained with urinary catheters when the bladder fails to empty itself. A catheter is a tube implanted into the body to drain the urine out of the bladder and collect it.  Catheters come in many dimensions and different materials like latex, silicone, Teflon, and types such as straight or coude tip.

How Long Can a Person Use a Catheter?

A catheter plays an important role in managing the drainage of the bladder while avoiding harm. Two catheters in particular are used by people all over the world: Intermittent catheterization (IC) and Indwelling urethral catheterization (IUC).

Type of CatheterDuration of usage
Indwelling urethral catheter (IUC)4 weeks
Intermittent catheter (IC)8-12 weeks

Indwelling Urethral Catheter (IUC)

The Indwelling urethral catheters (IUCs) are mainly used for patients who have a long-term need for bladder drainage. This device is usually used for 4 weeks or so. The duration for which catheters should be used constitutes a well-established risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). Where a catheter lasts for up to 1 week, the risk for bacteria increases to about 25%, and the risk at 1 month reaches about 100%.

Intermittent Catheter (IC)

For several reasons, ICs are commonly accepted as preferable to the IUCs. The reasons include reduction in the risk of IUCs-associated risks (e.g. blockage, bladder stones, or bladder neck damage), greater freedom to choose the clothing and to do business due to the absence of a permanent extruding tube and bag or valve collection, etc. These can be used for about 8-12 weeks.

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Why Can a Person Use a Catheter That Long?

It is an established fact that the related risk of developing a urinary tract infection during catheterization is extremely high. The everyday threat of urinary tract infection that comes along with catheterization spins around between 3% and 7%. One of the urinary tract infection prevention strategies is changing the catheters once in a while, which is not adhered to by many medical staff and patients. Many organizations, particularly home health agencies, for example, have an arbitrary timetable to modify their catheters which leads to infections among patients.

The cornerstone of catheter-related urinary tract infection (CAUTI) prevention is the removal of the catheter much before it starts breeding bacteria. Catheters are usually considered to be important risk factors to the hospitals for urinary tract infections. The most common urinary tract infection in the US is CAUTI (catheter-associated urinary tract infections), which happens to be a widespread problem with approximately 13,000 lives being affected per year in that country.  

The re-inserting of the catheter enables the direct integration of microorganisms to the bladder that lives in the distal urethra. In cases where the catheter has been used for fourteen days or longer while the onset of CAUTI, the IDSA suggests changing the catheters before taking urinary specimen for a suspected catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) (and the catheter continues to be needed). Following keeping of the catheter for quite a while, biofilms develop, causing a urine culture from the person whose inhabitant catheter does not accurately reflect the bladder urine bacteriology.

It is thus recommended that as long as a reason for insertion is available, a catheter should be used. Managing the long-term use of catheters by patients will continue to be a routine service, however; we have to build our practices of patient care on evidence-based data before it becomes too late. Hence, it is advised to use the catheters within the suggested time frame and not exceed it as it can have a negative impact on the patients’ health and well-being.



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