This FAQ is intended as a guide to commonly asked questions. Please always consult your healthcare professional regarding spinal cord injuries.
Why does spina bifida cause bladder problems?
The bladder, which stores urine, is controlled by the nervous system. Because spina bifida causes nerve damage, bladder function may be affected. Some people find that they need to urinate more frequently or urgently, some experience urine leakage whereas others experience difficulty emptying the bladder.
How can bladder problems affect my child’s health?
If your child’s bladder is not emptied regularly, it can cause infections. These start in the bladder but can move back to the kidneys and cause renal damage. Even small amounts of urine left in the bladder can cause infections. Alternatively, if your child cannot control the urge to urinate, he or she may leak involuntarily. Controlling your child’s bladder problems will help them to stay healthy and grow with confidence. Talk to your healthcare professional about how to manage your child’s bladder.
What is a catheter?
The catheter is a slim, flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to allow the urine to drain.
What is clean intermittent catheterisation?
Clean intermittent catheterisation is an effective bladder management technique based on the regular and complete emptying of the bladder using a sterile catheter. It requires thoroughly washed hands and good personal hygiene. The clean technique should be used by the parent helping the child, the child them self or both in the home setting.
If required, clean intermittent catheterisation is typically introduced immediately after birth to prevent kidney damage. Initially the parents will have to do the procedure but when capable, the child should take over the responsibility.
Can I use adult catheters on my child?
Catheters are available in different sizes and lengths including paediatric sizes, which are designed specifically for children.
How often should I empty my child’s bladder with a catheter?
Your doctor or nurse will start by making a bladder emptying schedule for your child. Bladder emptying is normally done 4-6 times each day. You do not need to empty your child's bladder at night if it is done just before bedtime.
Does it hurt my child?
No. Your child might feel some pressure when the catheter goes in. If your child is not comfortable or if it is difficult to slide in the catheter, take a short break. Encourage your child to relax by taking a deep breath or cough. Talk to your doctor or nurse if your child finds it painful.
Can I just empty my child’s bladder in the morning and in the evening?
No. You should follow the schedule your doctor has given you. As a rule, the bladder should be emptied at least 4-6 times a day. Can I give my child less to drink and empty his bladder less often? No. It is very important that your child drinks enough. This keeps the urinary system clean and healthy.
What if the urine looks cloudy or dark and smells funny?
Your child may have an infection. Talk to your doctor or nurse.
What if there is blood on the catheter when I pull it out?
It is normal to see small spots of blood on the catheter. If they are small and your child is not in pain, you should not worry. If there is bleeding or if your child finds it painful, talk to your doctor or nurse.