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Breaking Down Catheter Jargon

It’s confusing enough when you first get a catheter: working out how to care for it, and how your life is going to change. Many articles online give great advice, but are full of jargon and can be difficult to understand. So, we have put together a glossary of catheter terms that you may hear to help you navigate the world of catheters.


What is a CAUTI?

CAUTI is an acronym for Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection. The symptoms of a CAUTI include (but are not limited to) cloudy urine, blood in the urine, strong smelling urine, leakage around a catheter, fever and vomiting. It’s important to contact your healthcare professional if you believe you may have a CAUTI.

Catheter Jargon

What is the Difference Between a Short Term/Long Term Catheter? 

A short-term catheter is intended to be used for up to 4 weeks, whereas a long-term catheter can be used for up to 12 weeks.


What’s the Difference Between a Fixation Strap and a Leg Bag Strap? 

A fixation strap goes around the thigh or waist, and will usually have an additional tab or strap that goes around the bifurcation point of the catheter to hold the catheter in place. This is to reduce the risk of urethral trauma. A leg bag strap feeds through the top and the bottom of the leg bag to hold it in place on the leg. You can also use an adhesive catheter fixation device, which is a small adhesive pad with a clip on it, though it is best to contact your healthcare professional first to ensure this product is suitable.


What is a Catheter Blockage? 

When debris, sediment or small blood clots get into the catheter tube and block or reduce the flow of urine. It’s important to check your leg bag regularly to ensure it is filling properly. If you believe you may have a catheter blockage, contact a healthcare professional immediately.


What is a Catheter Maintenance Solution? 

A fluid that is used to clear a blockage from a catheter by flushing it out. It is usually a saline solution, but occasionally citric acid is used for more severe blockages or obstructions. They can be an excellent tool in reducing blockages or obstructions but should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare professional.


What’s the Difference between a Urethral and Suprapubic Catheter?

Often these are the same type of catheter, but the terms relate to where they enter the body. Urethral catheters are placed in the urethra (where you normally pass urine) and subrapublic catheters are inserted through a small cut in the abdomen, just below the bellybutton.


What is Bypassing?

Catheter bypassing is when urine leaks from the outside of the catheter. This is usually an indicator that the catheter is the wrong size; either it is too small, leaving too much room between the surface of the urethra and the catheter tube, or too large, causing bladder spasms. A good way to tell the difference between your catheter bypassing and your leg bag leaking is to look for any staining around the top of the leg bag. This would indicate the leak is coming from higher up rather than the leg bag itself. Then check the connection point between your catheter and your leg bag. If above this is wet, this can indicate your catheter is bypassing. If you suspect your catheter may be bypassing, contact your healthcare professional.


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Breaking Down Catheter Jargon