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The information contained on this page is provided as general health information and is not intended to substitute as medical advice and direction from your physician or health care provider. Please direct any questions related to your health care provider. In an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency center.


Urinary catheter - infants

Definition

A urinary catheter is a small, soft tube placed in the bladder. This article addresses urinary catheters in babies. A catheter may be inserted and removed right away, or it may be left in place.

Alternative Names

Bladder catheter - infants; Foley catheter - infants; Urinary catheter - neonatal

Information

WHY IS A URINARY CATHETER USED?

Babies may need urinary catheters while in the hospital if they are not making much urine. This is called low urine output. Babies can have low urine output because they:

  • Have low blood pressure
  • Have an abnormally developed urinary system
  • Take medicines that will not allow them to move their muscles, such as when a child is on a ventilator

When your baby has a catheter, health care providers can measure how much urine is coming out. They can figure out how much fluid your baby needs.

A baby may have a catheter inserted and then removed right away to help diagnose an infection in the bladders or kidneys. 

HOW IS A URINARY CATHETER PLACED?

A provider puts the catheter into the urethra and up into the bladder. The urethra is an opening at the tip of the penis in boys and above the vagina in girls. The provider will:

  • Clean the tip of the penis or the area around the vagina.
  • Gently put the catheter into the bladder.
  • If a Foley catheter is used, there is a very small balloon on the end of the catheter in the bladder. This is filled with a small amount of water to keep the catheter from falling out.
  • The catheter is connected to a bag for the urine to go into.
  • This bag is emptied into a measuring cup to see how much urine your baby is making.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF A URINARY CATHETER?

There is a small risk for injury to the urethra or the bladder when the catheter is inserted. Urinary catheters that are left in place for more than a few days increase the risk for a bladder or kidney infection.

References

Lissauer T, Carroll W. Kidney and urinary tract disorders. In: Lissauer T, Carroll W, eds. Illustrated Textbook of Paediatrics. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 19.

Vogt BA, Dell KM. The kidney and urinary tract of the neonate. In: Martin RJ, Fanaroff AA, Walsh MC, eds. Fanaroff and Martin's Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 101.

Woods SL. Bladder catheterization. In: Macdonald MG, Ramasethu J, Rais-Bahrami K, eds. Atlas of Procedures in Neonatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2013:chap 20.