What is a Catheter Bag?

Alex Tree

The catheter bag, also called a drainage bag, is typically attached to a catheter. It is commonly used for collecting urine from the urinary bladder or kidney and the administration of medication or intravenous (IV) fluids. Catheter bags can either be reusable or disposable. Silicon, polyvinyl chloride plastic, and rubber are common catheter bag materials.

An external male catheter.
An external male catheter.

An attached catheter bag and the catheter is a closed system, meaning that no openings are present from the organ to the tube leading to the catheter bag. Catheter bags used for collecting bodily fluids should be placed lower than the organ attached to the catheter to prevent the collected fluids from going back to the organ. On the other hand, catheter bags used for administering IV fluids should be placed higher than the catheter it is attached to in order to ensure moderate, continuous flow and prevent bleeding caused by the fast flow of IV fluids.

A urinary catheter.
A urinary catheter.

Catheter leg bags are positioned on the calf, with both legs usually being used alternately each day. The tube connecting the catheter to the catheter leg bag should be long enough and short enough to avoid pulling on the catheter and avoid creasing, respectively. Bedside catheter bags, however, are attached to the bed instead of placing them on the floor to avoid overflow. The tubes used to connect bedside catheter bags to catheters are usually coiled and placed in a normally undisturbed location on the bed.

The bag is attached with the flutter valve positioned on the topmost portion of the bag to avoid bodily fluids flowing back to the catheter. A flutter valve is usually tested while cleaning the catheter leg bag by tipping the bag upside down and seeing if water flows out. In the event that water does flow out, meaning the flutter valve is damaged, it should be thrown out.

As a closed system, the catheter and catheter bag should always be kept clean to prevent germs and bacteria from infecting the attached organ. Disposable bags should be wrapped in a plastic bag and thrown away after one use. Reusable bags, on the other hand, require emptying at least three times daily or when they are a little more than half full to prevent pressure on the catheter. Cleaning a catheter bag often involves the use of a vinegar solution. It is replaced with a new one every month or more regularly if the bag becomes discolored or cloudy.

Urinary catheters connect to an external bag where urine is collected.
Urinary catheters connect to an external bag where urine is collected.

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