How Often Should a Foley Catheter Be Changed? The Surprising Answer!

When a patient requires a foley catheter, they may have questions about how often it needs to be changed. Foley catheters are thin, flexible tubes inserted through the urethra to the bladder to allow urine to drain. These catheters are recommended for people with urinary incontinence, surgery or other procedures that make urination difficult or impossible. Although the use of foley catheters can be a lifesaver, they also pose a risk of infection and improper use can lead to complications. So, let’s answer the question, “How often should a foley catheter be changed?”

Factors affecting the frequency of changing foley catheters

The frequency of changing a foley catheter can be influenced by various factors. It is essential to know these factors to estimate the appropriate timing for changing the catheter.

Duration of Use

The duration of use is a critical factor in deciding when to replace a foley catheter. The chances of bacterial colonization increase as the catheter is in place for a longer duration. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends changing the catheter every four weeks for outpatients and 3-7 days for inpatient.

Types of Catheter

The type of catheter can also determine frequency. Some catheters are meant to stay in place for longer durations than others. Some catheters have special coatings that prevent bacteria from sticking to them, reducing the chance of infection. If your catheter has a special coating or is a specific type, your healthcare provider may give you different guidance for changing it.

Patient Health

When a patient’s underlying health status is a concern, catheter switching should be done even more frequently. For diabetics, immunocompromised patients, or those with decreased blood flow to the groin area, the CDC advises switching catheters every two weeks.

Infection Risk

If the catheter becomes contaminated, the chance of developing an infection increases significantly. The patient’s body and the catheter must be clean, the drainage bag must be changed regularly, and the urine must be drained appropriately to avoid contamination. Changing a catheter more often reduces the risk of infections.

How to Determine if a Catheter Needs to Be Changed

Several symptoms suggest a catheter change may be required. Infections or blockages may cause complications.

Urine Color and Clarity

Color and clarity of urine indicate the catheter’s competence. Dark yellow or brown urine is a sign of infection. Sediment in the urine can suggest catheter blockage or bladder infection.

Leakage Around Foley Catheter

Leakage around the catheter indicates that the balloon has lost its effectiveness, and the catheter needs to be replaced.

Changes in Urine Output

Changes in urination pattern can indicate a blockage or an issue like overfilling the bladder. These changes require the catheter to be changed.

How Often Should You Change Your Foley Catheter?

After reviewing the various factors that can impact the frequency of foley catheter changes, the general guideline for patients receiving foley catheters is every four weeks for outpatients and 3-7 days for inpatient. However, the duration should be adjusted based on the above-described factors.

Tips for Changing a Foley Catheter

Changing a foley catheter can be uncomfortable and challenging, but following these tips can make the process smoother for patients.

Be Prepared

Gather all supplies required for changing the catheter, e.g., gloves, catheter, lubricant, drainage bag, etc., before starting the catheter change process. This helps speed up the entire process, reducing discomfort and returning patients to their daily routine much quicker.

Hygiene is Paramount

Catheter placement requires utmost hygiene as infections can cause severe complications. Always wash your hands with soap and water, use sterile gloves when removing the old catheter, and clean the skin around the urethra carefully.

Get Professional Help

If it’s your first time changing a foley catheter, get professional help from your healthcare provider. Asking for help from relatives who haven’t received formal medical training isn’t recommended.

Risks of Improperly Changing Foley Catheter

Improper catheter change leads to the following problems:

  • Urinary Tract Infections
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Bleeding
  • Catheter blockage or damage
  • Cleansing errors leading to skin or urine infections


Your foley catheter should typically be changed every four weeks for outpatient and 3-7 days for inpatient, but it may require changing more frequently based on various factors. Patients should remain vigilant to avoid catheter-related infections and take the appropriate measures if any signs of infection or other problems present. Always double-check with a healthcare provider if you are unsure about the appropriate timing for foley catheter replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions about Foley Catheters

1) Is it safe to change my foley catheter by myself?

Unless you have been trained to do so, it is not recommended to change your foley catheter by yourself. Seek assistance from a medical professional.

2) Does changing the drainage bag count as changing the catheter?

No, changing the drainage bag doesn’t count as replacing the catheter, and the catheter needs to be exchanged periodically based on the patient profile, as discussed above.

3) How frequently should a foley catheter be changed in a patient with neurogenic bladder?

Patients with neurogenic bladder are more likely to develop catheter-associated infections; the catheters should be changed every two weeks or sooner based on the patient’s clinical conditions.

4) Why do I need to change my foley catheter?

Foley catheters are prone to contamination risks, and changing it frequently reduces the chances of contamination and catheter-associated infections.


  • Urinary Catheterization and Placement Infection Prevention Summary: Request for Comment, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BioMed Research International, 2018.
  • Changing indwelling urinary catheters: implications for nurses, BMC Nursing, 2019
  • Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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