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Caring for Urine Drainage and Leg Bags

Being free of complications from many urological conditions is attainable by anyone. As we weave our way through our daily experiences with urine drainage bags and leg bags, we eventually learn simple tricks and tips to make life easier. Undoubtedly, the most important things to master are basic sanitation and proper use of your urine drainage and leg bags. But, first let’s take a look at a few basics:

A Foley catheter is a tube used in special circumstances for draining urine from the bladder when a patient cannot pass urine normally. A situation like this can arise post-surgery (Urological and/or Gynecological) or when a patient has urine retention due to blockage in the urethra or because of injury to the spinal cord. Although the catheter is usually inserted through the urethra, sometimes this is not possible and a mini operation is performed in the supra-pubic area for the catheter’s insertion into the bladder. Whether the insertion is through the urethra or through the supra-pubic puncture, the process is called catheterization.

Once the catheter is in place and ready to drain, it is connected to a urine collection bag. There are two main types of bags:

  • Leg bag
  • Regular urine bag which is typically larger.

A leg bag is better when the patient is up and about because it is attached to your thigh and out of view while a regular urine bag is more convenient for use during sleep.

How to attach or remove a leg bag

Whether you are attaching or removing a leg bag, proper hygiene is of great importance to prevent chances of contamination which can lead to a myriad of urinary tract infections. Begin by washing your hands with water and soap for at least 15 seconds. The needed supply includes:

  • A sanitized or fresh leg bag with straps or tape
  • A large (regular) drainage bag
  • Medical Gloves
  • Alcohol swabs or pads
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • A clean towel

Attaching or removing the leg bag:

When you are ready, drain the large (regular) urine bag. Regardless of the draining method your bag uses, avoid touching the tip of the outlet or letting it touch anything. Place the catheter-urine bag connection on a clean towel and then disconnect them as you pinch the open catheter end to prevent urine from leaking.

Next, place the removed urine bag on a clean towel. Remove the cover on the leg bag’s connection point and keep it for later use. Clean this tip with alcohol swab and then connect the Foley catheter to the leg bag.

Now fasten the leg bag to your thigh but be careful not to over-tighten. You can strap the catheter to your thigh; keeping it barely loose so that it does not tug on your urethra and bladder.

How to empty the leg bag

Since a regular urine drainage bag is larger than a leg bag, the leg bag will require drainage more often.

Empty the leg bag into a container or toilet when it is half full or a minimum of two times daily. Make sure that you understand how to open the spigot to empty the urine since different makes of leg bags use different draining systems. Once drainage is complete, close the cap and wash your hands. Take note and record the amount of urine drained if you have been advised to do so by your healthcare professional. Also, a good tip would be to alternate legs to wear the leg bag, preferably after a shower.

How to clean the Leg Bag

The bags should be cleaned daily after changing from one to the other.

Use vinegar and water in the ratio of 1:3 to soak the bag for 20 minutes before rinsing it with warm water and hanging it to dry.

Bag replacement is usually recommended once monthly though it can sometimes vary. It is highly advised to follow their instructions.

A few more tips

  • Keep your body well hydrated to maintain healthy urine output as long as your healthcare professional gives approval.
  • Avoid any mechanical damage to the catheter and urine bag.
  • Avoid urine backflow by keeping the bag at a level below your bladder at all times. This also reduces the risk of infection.

Warning signs

See your doctor immediately if:

  • Your urine has any abnormal smell or color
  • Your lower back or bladder experiences pain
  • You feel a burning sensation in your urethra
  • There is discharge from your urethra.

Redness, unwanted drainage or inflammation of the urethra and other signs of ill-health like nausea, lethargy and urgency to pass urine many times. These symptoms may an indicate the presence of a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection).