National Continence Helpline

8am - 8pm Monday to Friday AEST Talk to a continence nurse

Urine isn't draining

Get help from a health care professional, or talk to your supervisor or care coordinator if the urinary catheter:

  • has come out
  • is not draining.

Why is it important that a urinary catheter drains properly?

Urinary catheters are plastic tubes placed into the bladder to drain urine. They are usually used for people who aren't able to pass urine normally. These are usually attached to a drainage bag that collects the urine. If no urine is draining into the bag, there can be be a build-up of urine in the bladder. This can be painful and for some people, it can cause serious illness. It's important to regularly check the catheter is draining urine, so you can get help quickly if there's a problem.

Catheters with a valve

Some people use a catheter valve to stop urine from draining until it's open, usually every few hours. If no urine drains when it's time to empty the bladder, check that the valve is open. Urine will not drain if the valve is closed.

Catheters that drain into a drainage bag

If no urine is draining into a drainage bag, check that:

  • the bag isn't full - if it's more than 2/3 full, it needs to be emptied
  • the catheter and bag are draining downwards - it not, you may need to move the position of the bag
  • the cap was taken off the bag before it was connected to the catheter
  • the catheter valve or drainage bag tap haven't been left open and the urine is draining straight out onto the person's clothes or the floor.
  • the tap is open at the bottom of the smaller leg bag if a larger drainage bag (usually for overnight) has been added to the leg bag. Urine won't drain from the leg bag into the bottom bag if the tap is closed.

You can find a video on how to change a drainage bag here.

Other things to check:

  • Is the catheter or drainage bag tubing squashed or kinked? Is the person sitting or lying on the bag or tubing?
  • Are all of the straps on the bag and catheter in the right position and not squashing the catheter or tubing?
  • Is the top end of the catheter going into the bladder still in the right place? Or, can you see more catheter than usual? If something looks wrong, get immediate help.
  • Has the person had enough to drink? They may be dehydrated and not making enough urine.
  • Is the bag empty because someone else recently drained the urine out?

If the person you support has a spinal injury above T6, make sure you know the signs and symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia.

Need more help? Call the National Continence Helpline on 18OO 33 OO 66 and talk to a continence nurse advisor.

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This information is not a substitute for independent professional advice.