What is Intermittent Catheterizing (Cathing)?

Cathing involves inserting a small plastic tube into the urethra and into the bladder to drain away urine. It is typically done every 3-4 hours during waking hours and either continued or discontinued during sleeping hours depending on the situation.

Here is what a basic catheter looks like:

Its just a tube.

There are three basic reasons why a child should be catheterized:

1) Medical Necessity
If the bladder is not emptying properly, urine may back up into the kidneys and damage them. If a bladder is not emptying completely, residual urine my remain in the bladder and crystallize or become infected.

2) Social Acceptance
No child wants to wear a diaper to elementary school. If a child does not have the ability to be continent (hold their urine) then intermittent cathing is a way to drain the bladder periodically which allows the child to remain dry and (more importantly) wear a small liner as opposed to a bulky diaper.

3) Psychological Conditioning
Most children with SB are incontinent. That means that even if cathing never becomes medically necessary, it will become socially desired eventually. Many families have found that beginning cathing in later years such as 5 or 6 for social reasons was met by a lot of resistance on the part of the child. For this reason, many hospitals have a philosophy that you should begin cathing early even if it is not medically necessary in order to get the parents and (more importantly) the child used to it.

Parent's Note:
My wife and I were told to start cathing once we took our daughter home from the hospital. When I asked if it was medically necessary, the hospital said, "No". So we opted not to. We were so overwhelmed that we didn't feel we could handle adding anything that was not medically necessary. Not to mention that cathing a 5 lb baby girl is like trying to thread a needle underwater. Our daughter did not experience any health issues due to us waiting.

As we approached preschool years, we decided to begin cathing for social reasons . Many of the other medical issues we faced when our daughter was born were behind us and our daughter's anatomy was larger. Cathing is really no big deal for us now and takes less than a couple of minutes. However it was a HUGE deal for us when we initially took her home from the hospital.

If your urologist is instructing you to start cathing and you are struggling with it, the key question for you to ask is, "Is this medically necessary at this moment?", and then do what you think is best for you and your family.

Further Reading:

Intermittent Catheter on Wikipedia

1-800 Medical: Kids Club
The 180 Medical Kids Club was created to ease the fears of families like yours that have been told your child needs to catheterize. We'll help you adjust to this new way of life with one-of-a-kind educational materials and fun activities for your child. These will teach you and your child how to use catheters correctly to help reduce the occurrence of infections. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing information on our kids club! We are happy to provide resources to help kids learn to self-catheterize.

    180 Medical