Fluids - Urinary catheter (male)

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Urinary retention

Urine output measurement (any critically ill or injured patient)

Urine collection for diagnostic purposes (if unable to voluntarily void)

Preservation of skin integrity

Patient comfort (as part of end of life care)

Contraindications (absolute in bold)

Trauma with suspected urethral injury

Recent urological surgery


Management without a catheter (measure voided urine, midstream urine collection, skin care)

Suprapubic catheter

Informed consent

Medical emergency

Consent is not required if the patient lacks capacity or is unable to consent

Brief verbal discussion is recommended if the situation allows


Verbal consent

Less complex non-emergency procedure with low risk of complications

Potential complications


Failure (including creation of a false passage)


Urethral trauma and haemorrhage


Pressure injury around insertion site

Urinary tract infection

Urethral stricture

Procedural hygiene

Standard precautions

Aseptic non-touch technique

PPE: sterile gloves, apron, protective eyewear/shield

Maintaining an aseptic field throughout catheterisation requires practice and good technique

The urethral meatus (‘key site’) requires preparation not covered in our procedural hygiene overview

We explicitly describe the equipment and steps required for asepsis in this procedure


Any adequately private bed space with good lighting


Procedural clinician and assistant

Equipment (prepared catheterisation trolley preferred)

Extra sheet or towel placed under patient

Sterile tray, gauze squares and cotton balls (cleaning tray)

0.9% sodium chloride (for cleaning) and forceps for application

Extra sterile tray (drainage tray)

Fenestrated drape

Lubricant (lignocaine gel)

16-18g urethral catheters (non-latex)

Luer lock syringe (10ml or larger depending on catheter balloon size)

Sterile water for injection

Catheter drainage bag

Catheter securing device


Semi-recumbent on the bed


5ml of 2% lignocaine gel (lubricant)


Open fenestrated drape and place it over patient’s genitals

Place the cleaning tray with saline and gauze between patient’s legs on the fenestrated drape

Using a gauze square, hold the patient’s penis and retract foreskin if uncircumcised (using non-dominant hand)

Clean urethral meatus and glans penis with gauze soaked with 0.9% sodium chloride (forceps in dominant hand)

Discard cleaning gauze after one downwards wipe, and once cleaning complete, discard cleaning tray

Inject the lignocaine gel into the urethra ensuring firm seal around meatus, clamping the urethra for 2-3 minutes

Place tray for drainage between patient’s legs on the fenestrated drape

Remove 16g catheter from plastic sleeve, ensuring to maintain sterility of the catheter (non-touch technique)

Lubricate sterile catheter and insert into urethral meatus (holding penis at 90 degrees to the patent body)

When resistance is felt, lower penis and continue insertion until the start of the Y junction of catheter

If resistance occurs on insertion, apply constant sustained pressure for 30 seconds (passing prostate)

When urine flows, inflate balloon with 10ml sterile water (or balloon volume as marked on catheter)

If resistance or discomfort after inflation, deflate the balloon and reposition with further insertion

After passage and inflation, withdraw the catheter until resistance is met (confirming bladder position)

Reposition foreskin if required (avoiding paraphimosis)

Connect the catheter drainage bag and secure catheter

If unable to insert a catheter, reattempt changing to 18g catheter size (Coude tip if available)

If unable to insert after two attempts, seek assistance from a senior clinician

A new catheter should be used for each attempt

Post-procedure care

Document procedure (completion, size of catheter, residual volumes, number of attempts, immediate complications)

Document management plan for catheter


A larger catheter will pass an enlarged prostate more easily than a smaller one (allows sustained pressure)

Coude tip (curved tip) catheters may enable easier catheter insertion with enlarged prostate

Catheters should be removed as soon as the clinical need has been resolved

Routine antibiotic prophylaxis for high-risk patients only (trauma, prosthetic heart valves, immunosuppression) Catheterising spinal patients involves risk of autonomic dysreflexia (monitor BP, drain only 250ml every 15 minutes)


Clinicians should select the smallest sized catheter that will enable adequate access and drainage. For males, this will usually be a 16-18g catheter, however the heavier the sediment, haematuria or clots, the larger the catheter required to reduce the chance of obstruction. Large clots and haematuria will require a 20-24g three-way catheter to facilitating irrigation. Three-way catheters are generally placed after discussion with urology.

Urethral disruption is associated with pelvic trauma or penile fracture. Blood at the meatus is the classical sign of urethral trauma. The traditional teaching requiring assessment for a high-riding prostate is probably overemphasised, as this sign is subjective and insensitive. In most trauma settings, a gentle, single passage of a urethral catheter by an experienced clinician may be attempted with minimal risk of exacerbating an underlying urethral injury. Any difficulty would suggest that urology advice and suprapubic catheterisation are required.

Meatal cleaning for catheterisation can be completed with saline or antiseptic solution. We suggest saline cleaning to reduce the chance of reducing the bacterial growth of urine samples sent for culture. The available evidence does not suggest this leads to higher levels of contamination.

Peer review

This guideline has been reviewed and approved by the following expert groups:

Emergency Care Institute

Please direct feedback for this procedure to ACI-ECIs@health.nsw.gov.au.


NSW Ministry of Health. Adult urethral catheterisation for acute care settings. Sydney: NSW Health; 2015. GL2015_16. Available from: https://www1.health.nsw.gov.au/pds/ActivePDSDocuments/GL2015_016.pdf

NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation. Male indwelling urinary catheterisation (IUC) – adult. Sydney: ACI; 2014. Available from: https://www.aci.health.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/256133/ACI_Male_IUCv3.pdf

Geng V, Cobussen-Boekhorst H, Farrell J, Gea-Sánchez M, Pearce I, Schwennesen I, Vahr S, Vandewinkel C.

Catheterisation: indwelling catheters in adults - urethral and suprapubic. 2012. Arnhem: European Association of Urology Nurses; 2012. Available from: https://nurses.uroweb.org/guideline/catheterisation-indwelling-catheters-in-adults-urethral-and-suprapubic/

Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW. Roberts and Hedges’ clinical procedures in emergency medicine and acute care. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019.

Dunn RJ, Borland M, O’Brien D (eds.). The emergency medicine manual. Online ed. Tennyson, SA: Venom Publishing; 2019.

Schaeffer AJ. Placement and management of urinary bladder catheters in adults. In: UpToDate. Waltham (MA): UpToDate. 2019 July 2. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/placement-and-management-of-urinary-bladder-catheters-in-adults

Sliwinski A, D'Arcy FT, Sultana R, Lawrentschuk N. Acute urinary retention and the difficult catheterization: current emergency management. Eur J Emerg Med. 2016;23(2):80-88. doi:10.1097/MEJ.000000000000033

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