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How To Do Urethral Catheterization in a Male


Paul H. Chung

, MD, Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University

Reviewed/Revised May 2023
Topic Resources

Urethral catheterization is the standard method of accessing the urinary bladder. A flexible catheter is passed retrograde through the urethra into the bladder. Several types of catheters are available. Sometimes the urethra is impassable, requiring suprapubic catheterization of the bladder.

Indications for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

Contraindications to Urethral Catheterization in a Male

Absolute contraindications

  • Suspected urethral injury*

Relative contraindications

*Urethral injury may be suspected following blunt trauma if patients have blood at the urethral meatus (most important sign), inability to void, or perineal, scrotal, or penile ecchymosis, and/or edema. In such cases, urethral disruption should be ruled out with imaging (eg, by retrograde urethrography Genitourinary Imaging Tests Imaging tests are often used to evaluate patients with renal and urologic disorders. Abdominal x-rays without radiopaque contrast agents may be done to check for positioning of ureteral stents... read more ) before attempting urethral catheterization.

Complications of Urethral Catheterization in a Male

Equipment for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

Prepackaged kits are typically used but the individual items needed include

†A coudé catheter is curved at the end and may facilitate passage in a male with significant prostatic hypertrophy.

Additional Considerations for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

Relevant Anatomy for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

  • The male urethra bends acutely at the pubis. Always hold the penis straight and upright, to smooth out the curve, when passing a catheter through the urethra.

Positioning for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

  • Position the patient supine with hips comfortably abducted.

Step-by-Step Description of Urethral Catheterization in a Male

  • Place all equipment within easy reach on an uncontaminated sterile field on a bedside tray. You may put the box containing the catheter and the drainage system between the patient’s legs, so that it is easily accessible during the procedure.

  • If not done already, attach the catheter to the collecting system and do not break the seal unless a different type or size of catheter or irrigation of the catheter is required.

  • Test the retention balloon for integrity by inflating it with water, and apply lubricant to the catheter tip.

  • Saturate the applicator swabs, cotton balls, or gauze with povidone iodine.

  • Place the sterile fenestrated drape over the pelvis so that the penis remains exposed.

  • Grasp the shaft of the penis using your nondominant hand, and retract the foreskin if the patient is uncircumcised. This hand is now nonsterile and must not be removed from the penis or touch any of the equipment during the rest of the procedure.

  • Cleanse the glans penis with applicator swabs, gauze, or cotton balls saturated in povidone iodine. Use a circular motion, beginning at the meatus, and work your way outward. Discard or set aside the newly contaminated items.

  • Inject viscous lidocaine into the urethra. Insert the hub of the lidocaine-containing syringe into the penile meatus and inject about 5 mL. Pinch the meatus closed, to retain the lidocaine within the urethra, for at least 1 minute. The lidocaine distends the urethra, as well as provides some anesthesia, thereby easing catheter passage.

  • Hold the catheter in your free hand. If a coudé catheter is being used, the tip should point upward, so as to track the superior urethral wall during insertion.

  • Advance the catheter slowly through the urethra and into the urinary bladder. Patient discomfort is common. Ask the patient to relax and take slow deep breaths as you continue to apply steady pressure on the catheter until it is fully advanced to the level of the side port. Urine should flow freely into the collection tubing.

  • Slowly inflate the balloon with 5 to 10 mL of water. Obvious resistance or patient discomfort suggests incorrect placement. If this happens, deflate the balloon, withdraw the catheter slightly, and then reinsert the catheter all the way before trying to reinflate the balloon.

  • Position the balloon at the bladder neck, after successful balloon inflation, by slowly withdrawing the catheter until you feel resistance.

How To Do Urethral Catheterization in Males

Aftercare for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

  • Remove the drapes.

  • Secure the catheter to the thigh with an adhesive bandage, tape, or strap. Some advocate taping the catheter to the lower abdominal wall to minimize pressure on the posterior urethra.

  • Place the bag below the level of the patient to ensure that urine can drain via gravity.

Warnings and Common Errors for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

Tips and Tricks for Urethral Catheterization in a Male

  • Do not continue attempts at catheter placement if significant resistance is met or if the catheter feels to be buckling inside the urethra and not advancing.

  • Urine will appear in the catheter before the balloon has advanced beyond the prostate. Continue advancing the catheter completely to the end of the catheter before inflating the balloon, to avoid inflating the balloon in the prostate or urethral lumen, which will cause significant bleeding.

  • If the catheter appears to be in the correct position, but urine does not return, lubricant may be obstructing drainage of urine. Flush the catheter with normal saline to dislodge the lubricant and see if urine returns.

  • If the balloon is difficult to inflate or the balloon port distends during inflation, the proximal end of the catheter is probably not in the correct position. Deflate the balloon and advance the catheter further into the bladder.

  • If correct positioning is questioned, flush the catheter with 30 to 60 mL of normal saline. If the fluid can be flushed and aspirated easily, then the catheter is in the correct position. A catheter that will not irrigate is not in proper position.

  • Consult a urologist for any questions regarding catheter size and style or difficulty placing a catheter.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Drug Name Select Trade
7T Lido, Akten , ALOCANE, ANASTIA, AneCream, Anestacon, Aspercreme with Lidocaine, Astero , BenGay, Blue Tube, Blue-Emu, CidalEaze, DermacinRx Lidogel, DermacinRx Lidorex, DERMALID, Ela-Max, GEN7T, Glydo, Gold Bond, LidaMantle, Lidocan, Lidocare, Lidoderm, LidoDose, LidoDose Pediatric, Lidofore, LidoHeal-90, LIDO-K , Lidomar , Lidomark, LidoReal-30, LidoRx, Lidosense 4 , Lidosense 5, Lidosol, Lidosol-50, LIDO-SORB, Lidotral, Lidovix L, LIDOZION, Lidozo, LMX 4, LMX 4 with Tegaderm, LMX 5, LTA, Lydexa, Moxicaine, Numbonex, ReadySharp Lidocaine, RectaSmoothe, RectiCare, Salonpas Lidocaine, Senatec, Solarcaine, SUN BURNT PLUS, Tranzarel, Xyliderm, Xylocaine, Xylocaine Dental, Xylocaine in Dextrose, Xylocaine MPF, Xylocaine Topical, Xylocaine Topical Jelly, Xylocaine Topical Solution, Xylocaine Viscous, Zilactin-L, Zingo, Zionodi, ZTlido
NOTE: This is the Professional Version. CONSUMERS: View Consumer Version
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