a patient who needs a catheter

Conditions that Require Catheters

A doctor makes the decision to catheterize patients based on the bladder's ability to completely empty itself on a regular basis. Certain medical conditions can prevent your bladder from emptying; this is known as urinary retention. Conditions can also have the opposite effect, in which the bladder is unable to control when it releases urine; this is known as urinary incontinence.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a condition that causes your immune system to attack your central nervous system by destroying the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. Communication between your brain and nerves become disrupted and eventually permanently damaged. The physical result of MS is paralysis. Additionally, patients with MS may lose their ability to control their bladder, making it necessary to have a catheter.


A catheter is sometimes necessary when a major surgery is performed. This is because patients will likely be given strong medications that completely relax their muscles, numb localized areas, and deliver anesthesia. Additionally, many patients are unable to walk after surgery. Having a catheter in place makes emptying their bladder easier and more convenient for health care providers.


Older patients who suffer from dementia sometimes require catheters. Some families allow care facilities like nursing or retirement homes to care for their older loved ones. Often, these facilities use adult-sized diapers for patients with dementia, but other pre-existing conditions make catheterization necessary. Such conditions include past surgeries, urinary tract infections and diabetes.


If a patient suffers from a stroke, it is possible that he or she will lose control over one side of his or her body, depending on the amount of brain damage done. Patients may need to use catheterization until they regain control over their bladder. There is also the possibility that stroke patients won't ever fully recover from their paralysis.

Bed Confinement

If a patient is bed confined, the use of a catheter is often considered. Even if there is nothing preventing him or her from emptying the bladder, using a catheter can be more convenient and sanitary than using a diaper. This is often a personal choice between family, a health care provider, and the patient.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease causes brain cells to die at an abnormal rate. The cells that die are often movement and coordination controlling cells. This causes a variety of symptoms like tremors and difficulty moving. Parkinson's can have an effect on a patient's ability to urinate.


Remember, any prolonged use of a catheter requires care. Recently, the availability of disposable, sterile catheters have made the reusable catheters almost obsolete. Many medical insurance plans pay for catheters. If self catheterization is necessary, doctors will teach patients how to properly prepare, insert, and discontinue the catheter. Proper care is necessary to prevent infection and illness.

Last Updated: July 25, 2017