Living With a Suprapubic Catheter – DOs and DON’Ts

Living with a suprapubic catheter can present unique challenges, but with the right knowledge and care, it is entirely possible to lead a fulfilling and healthy life. 

Whether you or someone you know is living with a suprapubic catheter or exploring it as a treatment option, this guide will equip you with the necessary knowledge and guidance to navigate this aspect of health with confidence and positivity. 

Remember, you are not alone in your journey, and with the right resources and support, you can lead a fulfilling life while managing urinary challenges effectively.

What Is a Suprapubic Catheter?

A suprapubic catheter, also known as an SPC, is a medical device that plays a critical role in assisting people with challenges in urinating through the normal urinary pathway, the urethra. 

This condition, known as urinary retention, can result from various underlying medical conditions such as:

When traditional methods of managing urinary retention, such as medications or intermittent catheterization, prove ineffective or impractical, your doctor may recommend a suprapubic catheter.

Unlike a standard urinary catheter, which is inserted through the urethra, the suprapubic catheter is placed directly into the bladder through a small incision in the lower abdomen. 

The procedure should be performed in a sterile environment, such as an operating room or a clinical setting, to minimize the risk of infection and ensure patient safety.

Suprapubic Catheterization – Usage

Suprapubic catheters are utilized for various medical conditions, including:

Suprapubic catheter useDefinition
Urinary retentionWhen a person cannot empty their bladder fully or at all
Bladder dysfunctionFor patients with neurological conditions that affect bladder control
Urinary incontinenceTo manage urinary leakage and improve quality of life
Bladder outlet obstructionWhen there is a blockage preventing urine flow through the urethra
Bladder diversionAfter certain surgical procedures that alter the normal urinary pathway

Suprapubic Catheter Insertion Explained

The insertion of a suprapubic catheter is typically performed by a healthcare professional, such as a urologist, in a sterile environment. The procedure involves the following steps:

1. Preparing the patient:

The patient is positioned comfortably, and the pubic area is cleaned and sterilized. 

2. Anesthesia

Local anesthesia is administered to numb the area where the catheter will be inserted.

3. Incision

A small incision is made just above the pubic bone, allowing access to the bladder.

4. Catheter placement

A catheter is gently inserted into the bladder through the incision.

5. Balloon inflation

Once inside the bladder, the catheter’s balloon is filled with sterile water to secure it in place.

6. Dressing

The insertion site is dressed with a sterile bandage to prevent infection.

7. Catheter tubing

The other end of the catheter tubing is connected to a drainage bag that collects urine.

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Complications, Side Effects, and Risks

There are potential complications and risks associated with using suprapubic catheters. These may include:

Infection: The insertion site or the urinary tract may become infected.

Catheter blockage: Accumulation of sediment or debris can obstruct the catheter.

Leakage: Improper positioning or a faulty catheter can lead to urine leakage.

Bladder spasms: Some people may experience spasms in the bladder due to the presence of the catheter.

Skin irritation: The skin around the catheter site may become irritated or develop pressure sores.

Displacement or malfunction: The catheter may shift or malfunction, requiring adjustment or replacement.

Bleeding: Minor bleeding can occur during or after catheter insertion.

It is essential to promptly seek medical attention if any complications or side effects arise. Proper care and maintenance of the catheter can help reduce the likelihood of these issues.

DOs and DON’Ts While Wearing a Suprapubic Catheter

Living with a suprapubic catheter requires proper care and attention. Here are some DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind:


  1. Keep the catheter site clean: Wash the area around the catheter with mild soap and water daily.
  2. Maintain hydration: Drink plenty of fluids to prevent urinary tract infections and promote kidney health.
  3. Follow catheter care instructions: Adhere to your healthcare provider’s guidelines for catheter care and maintenance.
  4. Regularly empty the drainage bag: Keep the drainage bag below the level of the bladder and empty it before it’s full.
  5. Monitor urine output: Pay attention to the color and volume of urine to detect any abnormalities.
  6. Stay active: Engage in light physical activities to promote circulation and overall well-being.


  1. Pull or tug on the catheter: Avoid pulling or tugging on the catheter to prevent displacement or injury.
  2. Allow the catheter to kink: Ensure the catheter tubing remains free from kinks to maintain proper drainage.
  3. Ignore signs of infection: If you notice redness, swelling, or increased pain at the catheter site, seek medical attention.
  4. Use harsh chemicals: Avoid using harsh or scented products around the catheter site, as they may cause irritation.
  5. Delay catheter change: Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for catheter replacement intervals.

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How To Change A Suprapubic Catheter

The frequency of catheter changes depends on the type of catheter used and individual needs. Here is an example of how to change a suprapubic catheter:

  1. Gather supplies: Prepare a new catheter, catheter stabilization device, antiseptic solution, and sterile gloves.
  2. Wash your hands: Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.
  3. Positioning: Sit or lie in a comfortable position with the catheter drainage bag positioned below the bladder.
  4. Clean the area: Clean the catheter insertion site with an antiseptic solution and allow it to dry.
  5. Catheter removal: Gently deflate the balloon of the old catheter and remove it from the insertion site.
  6. Inserting the new catheter: Lubricate the tip of the new catheter with water-soluble gel and insert it into the bladder.
  7. Inflate the balloon: Once the catheter is in place, inflate the balloon with the recommended amount of sterile water.
  8. Secure the catheter: Use a catheter stabilization device to secure the catheter and prevent movement.
  9. Connect drainage bag: Connect the catheter tubing to a clean and empty drainage bag.
  10. Dispose of materials: Dispose of used materials properly and wash your hands again.

Remember to consult your healthcare provider for personalized instructions on catheter changes and care.

How long can a suprapubic catheter stay in?

The duration a suprapubic catheter can remain in place varies depending on individual circumstances. 

In some cases, it may be necessary for long-term management, while in others, it may be temporary until a specific medical issue is resolved. 

Your healthcare provider will determine the appropriate duration based on your medical condition and needs.

While living with a suprapubic catheter, it’s important to be aware of potential problems that may require medical attention:

  • Signs of infection: Fever, chills, foul-smelling urine, or increased pain at the catheter site.
  • Catheter blockage: Decreased or no urine output despite the bladder feeling full.
  • Catheter displacement: If you notice the catheter coming out of the insertion site or shifting position.
  • Bleeding: If you experience excessive bleeding from the catheter site or notice blood in the urine.
  • Bladder spasms: Persistent, severe, or worsening bladder spasms.

If you encounter any of these issues, contact your healthcare provider promptly to address them.


Can you live a normal life with a suprapubic catheter?

Yes, many people with a suprapubic catheter can lead fulfilling lives with proper care and management. It may take some adjustments and learning, but with time, you can resume most of your daily activities and maintain a good quality of life.

How is a suprapubic catheter different from a normal catheter?

The main difference between a suprapubic catheter and a normal catheter (urethral catheter) is the insertion site. 

A suprapubic catheter is placed through a small incision in the lower abdomen, directly into the bladder, while a normal catheter is inserted through the urethra. 

The choice between the two types of catheters depends on the specific medical needs of the individual.


Living with a suprapubic catheter may present some challenges, but with the right care and support, you can continue to lead fulfilling lives. 

Understanding the purpose of the catheter, proper care, and recognizing potential complications is essential for managing this medical device effectively. 

Remember to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice and support tailored to your specific needs.

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