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What is a Suprapubic Catheter?

By Madeleine A.
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

A suprapubic catheter is a flexible rubber or plastic tube that is placed directly into the bladder. The suprapubic catheter is surgically implanted via an abdominal incision and is used as a urinary drainage method. Typically, a this catheter is used in instances where there is difficulty in the passage of urine. Common conditions that may obstruct the passage of urine and warrant a catheter are infection and urinary trauma. In addition, a paralyzed patient may benefit from this type of catheter.

Generally, an interrupted flow of urine can warrant a suprapubic catheter. Sometimes, an enlarged prostate may obstruct the flow of urine, causing urinary retention. This condition may cause the patient to encounter difficulty with urine drainage. Similarly, women who have a medical condition known as a cystocele, where the bladder has fallen through the vagina, may have difficulty passing urine. In either case, an acute diagnosis may require a catheter.

Since the placement of the catheter is a surgical procedure, it must be performed by a physician. Typically, a urologist will perform the procedure. A urologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diseases and conditions of the urinary system. Generally, during the procedure, the urologist will surgically insert the catheter just about the area of the pubic bone. The procedure is performed under sterile conditions and is usually done in an outpatient or office setting.

After the catheter is placed, it is attached to a drainage or collection bag. Generally, the urinary bag is marked with standard fluid measurements that allow medical personnel to measure urinary output. In the cognizant and able patient, care for the suprapubic catheter may be performed by himself. Keeping the stoma, or the opening for the catheter, impeccably clean to avoid infection is important. The physician or nurse will give the patient directions on caring for the catheter.

Sometimes, the patient who has a suprapubic catheter is hospitalized, in which case the care of the catheter and stoma is done by medical personnel. Typically, the registered or practical nurse will clean and change the apparatus. In addition, the nurse will keep a record of intake and urinary output of the patient. These records generally become a permanent addition to the patient's medical chart.

While hospitalized, the patient usually is monitored for signs and symptoms of urinary tract infection and other catheter-related complications. Signs and symptoms may include blood in the collection bag, pain in the bladder area and urinary burning. In addition to infection, complications with urinary drainage may be observed, such as a decrease in urinary output. Signs and symptoms of infection and fluctuations in urinary output should be reported to the physician so swift medical intervention can be employed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon1003922 — On Oct 07, 2020

I have a supra pubic catheter put in about 3 months ago. I still leak from both places. Does this ever stop leaking? It just leaks at the catheter. Has anyone had this problem?

By anon948696 — On May 01, 2014

I need a condom catheter, but after 20 years of non action he has shrunk, and has withdrawn himself. Therefore, how do I hang the catheter on him and get it to stay? Is there a device that will do this? Please help.

By pharmchick78 — On Aug 09, 2010

@naturesgurl3 -- It sounds like your father may need some advanced care. Many nursing homes offer personalized nursing care, so he could go with a couple of different options.

If he has prostate problems (as often come with Alzheimer's) then a suprapubic foley catheter may be the best choice. It drains into a bag on the leg, which the nursing staff at his new home can monitor and change.

If you want to avoid surgery, and if the problem has more to do with incontinence and not prostate problems, then a condom catheter is the least invasive kind of urinary catheterization, which may be a good choice.

By naturesgurl3 — On Aug 09, 2010

What would be the best type of catheter for a person with Alzheimer's and limited fine motor skills?

My father is about to go into a nursing home and we're looking at different kinds of male catheters.

Does anybody have any advice?

By galen84basc — On Aug 09, 2010

My father had to use a suprapubic urinary catheter for quite some time due to his prostate problems.

I remember he used to tell me how hard it was to keep the area clean, especially since it sits so near your waist, where your pants can rub up against it.

However, it was certainly better than the alternative -- constipation.

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