Suprapubic catheters are not a tube that I see very often in the hospital.  How exactly do you care for one?  Are they very different from a urethral catheter? Here is a simple summary on the indications and care of a suprapubic catheter.

Suprapubic Catheter

A suprapubic catheter is a thin, hollow tube (similar to a Foley catheter) that helps to drain urine from the bladder. Unlike a urethral catheter, this catheter drains the urine through a hole created in the lower abdomen directly into the bladder. There is a balloon on the end of the tubing (similar to a Foley catheter) that holds the tubing inside the bladder. 

Suprapubic Catheter   Image: Blamb/

Suprapubic Catheter

Image: Blamb/

Urethral Catheter   Image: Blamb/

Urethral Catheter

Image: Blamb/


A suprapubic catheter is necessary when a patient can no longer drain urine independently.  There are a number of reasons that can cause this to happen:

  • Urethral damage
  • Bladder masses
  • People requiring long-term catheterisation and are sexually active
  • Benign prostate hypertrophy or prostate enlargement
  • Gynaecological operations; for example, a surgery for prolapsed uterus or bladder, or surgery for stress incontinence
  • Long-term catheterisation for incontinence
  • Some wheelchair users or people who can’t self-catheterise 
  • Catheter Care

The catheter is initially inserted by the doctor using local anesthesia.  After this is complete, be sure to keep the catheter insertion site clean and dry.  The catheter will need to be switched out every 4-6 weeks by a nurse or health professional. The steps to switch out the suprapubic catheter are as follows:

Removing The Catheter

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, and put on sterile gloves.
  • Fill a syringe with the fluid provided in the catheter kit.
  • If there is a dressing on the insertion site, remove it. Clean the area around the catheter with the supplies from the catheter kit.
  • Use another syringe to take out the water from the catheter balloon.
  • Hold the catheter close to where it goes into your belly. Gently pull the catheter up and away from you until it comes out.

Putting A New Catheter In

Don't wait to put in the new catheter. If you wait, the opening can close.

  • Wash your hands and put on a new pair of sterile gloves.
  • Lubricate the catheter tip and push it through the opening in your belly. Push it in as far as the other catheter was placed.
  • When the catheter is in place, urine should begin to flow through it. This may take a few minutes.
  • Inflate the balloon using the first syringe, which you filled with fluid from the kit.

Other relevant articles include:


Web MD

Urology Health


AuthorCourtney Tracy