Ask Nurse Patty: Do you have any tips for cathing by touch?


Question: I am a T3 Complete. My accident happened a year ago. I am continuing on my journey to become independent. The next goal I have is to be able to perform intermittent catheterization from my wheelchair. I am able to do this from my bed but I want to be able to travel and go to public places without the worry of getting home to cath. Currently, I use a mirror and light to help me cath and I like this as I am able to keep the catheter uncontaminated. I’ve been told I should learn to cath by touch rather than using a mirror if I want to cath from the chair. I’ve tried by touch but I keep missing and then wasting catheters once they become contaminated from entering the vagina instead. Catheters are too expensive to just throw away. Do you have any tips for cathing by touch? Do you have any tips that will help me to learn to cath from my chair? I know it’s a lot of information requested but this is a big hurdle for me now.

Hi Roberta,

Great question but it’s a question that I have no magical tricks up my sleeve for.  I, too, am a T3 complete paraplegic.  Being a nurse, I asked this exact question in my rehab, when I was a patient.  The response I got from rehab was, “ask the floor nurses” and the response I got from the floor nurses, “they will teach you in rehab.”   When I left, I wasn’t any more educated of the correct method of cathing in a chair than before I entered. I have been SCI for 6 years.  I ask many women that are also SCI and their response is similar to mine.  It takes time to figure out what works best for you.  Because of your (and mine) upper para level, I find it difficult to move my bottom out and up for easy access.   First off, I want to suggest that you will want to find an urologist to monitor you as a SCI person.  Urinary systems should be followed by an expert.  They have ideas and meds that will assist in your urinary maintenance.

To help with practicing cathing, 6 inch catheters are made, if that helps.  I was also told by another para that she sits cross-legged in her chair, caths with a 16 inch catheter, and uses a water bottle to catch urine.  Others transfer to toilet to cath.  Closed cath systems are also available; they include a catheter and bag together for easy disposal.  Finding your landmarks takes practice and you will soon be doing that without a mirror.  Locate the top of your labia and learn how far down you need to travel to enter your ureteral opening.  Wearing clothing to make cathing easier is another suggestion, skirts, dresses, etc.  If I have prior knowledge that I will be out for a long period and finding a private place to cath is difficult, then I may insert a foley catheter with a leg bag, so I have no worries but check with your physician before doing this.

Also, I use cranberry tabs to help lessen UTIs, which are a constant threat to us with SCI.  Found on, Rollin RN section.

Good luck with your goal to become independent and please stay in touch.  Both of us being a T3 complete paraplegic, we can learn from each other.  That’s the one thing I have discovered, if nothing else, during this travel.  Finding other friends with the same situation makes you feel less alone.  According to stats, 80.9% of SCI are men, so there aren’t too many of us women with SCI. There are private woman’s groups you may be interested in joining on Facebook like “Woman with SCI/D.”

Thanks and good luck,


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The Rollin RN, Patty Kunze, RNC, BSN

Patty has been a Nurse for 31 years, since 1983. She actually worked for two years prior to her spinal cord injury (SCI) in the SCI Unit at the Veterans Hospita,l working with new injuries. She then transferred to neonatal intensive care and ultimately to education of students in nursing.

Patty, The Rolling RN, Is A Regular Contributor To PUSHLiving

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