I hear people say Super but it is Supra Pubic Catheter. I have had an SPC for 16 years now and it has mostly been super. There is not much first hand info on the net so I will share my personal experience. Supra pubic catheters are a method of bladder management. It is a fairly simple procedure usually performed under a general anesthetic.
An incision was made about three inches below the belly button and a small hole is poked in the bladder. At this point, a catheter is inserted. It is held inside the bladder by plugging a syringe onto the catheter port and inflating a 5 to 40cc balloon with sterile water. The syringe is unplugged and a drainage bag is connected to the catheter flange. Usually the site (incision point) is low enough to hide below your pants belt line. It took three weeks for my supra pubic catheters site to settle and stop bleeding. I no longer keep it covered with any type of dressing.
With supra pubic catheters you must always keep a catheter in place. Your bladder can heal very quickly. In as little as ten minutes without a catheter in, you may not be able to get one in. Your body treats a suprapubic catheter as a foreign object. Forming a tube from stomach wall to bladder. Always trying to expel the foreign object, the catheter site never totally heals. It will always require a little cleaning. We use an alcohol wipe each morning and night. I’d much rather my carer clean around the super pubic catheters site than the pointy end of business (I’ll call him Sarge). Especially when your primary carer is a family member.
Changing Supra Pubic Catheters
Silicone Foley supra pubic catheters like these above are good for three months. I change mine every two months. Even then it often requires a little tug to remove. Some rotate their supra pubic catheters frequently to keep them free from sticking. This can cause leakage so I don’t do it.
Sterilize all equipment and around the catheter site. Deflate the old catheter balloon by firmly plugging an empty 10 cc syringe onto the supra pubic catheters port and drawing back. Remove the catheter taking note of how far it was inserted. So then you will know how far to push the new one in. Lubricate and insert the new catheter, then inflate the balloon. It should slip back a little to rest against the bladder wall. Holding the syringe plunger depressed, remove it and plug a new clean drainage device onto catheter flange.
You might like to check our 10 step guide on changing supra pubic catheters.
We once pushed my catheter in to far, right through the bladder and half way out my urethra. When we inflated the balloon it ruptured my urethra. Sarge was wounded by friendly fire! I bled from the penis for three days. The same can happen if it’s not in far enough. A little bleeding is common after a change or trauma (yanking on the catheter) but any bleeding should stop quickly.
Plug a leg bag or whatever drainage receptacle you prefer. I use a 16fr gauge Silicone Foley catheter with a 4-Sure 2000 cc overnight drain bag in a cover slip hung up under my power wheelchair. The 4-Sure is emptied morning and night, changed weekly. The boys get jealous when we have a session at the pub. They run back and forth to the bathroom while I don’t need to go at all. Check and top up the amount of sterile water in the supra pubic catheters balloon monthly. Some osmosis can occur in time and you don’t want the catheter falling out when asleep.
Lifestyles Diet Flying Sex and Swimming
Drinking is essential with Supra Pubic Catheters. It’s recommended you drink at least 3 liters daily to keep sediment levels down and the catheter eyelets clear. A lower urinary pH can be of benefit in reducing sediment and bacteria causing UTI’s. Bacteria don’t like acidic urine. Some pH lowering drinks and those of general benefit to supra pubic catheters are; cranberry juice, coffee, naturally brewed beer, buttermilk, wine, green tea, colloidal silver, distilled and filtered water.
Diet is unrestricted. You can eat anything you like. Some foods that lower urinary pH and help to reduce urinary tract infection are; beef, berry juices, corn, corn silk, eggs, fermented milk products (yogurt), fish, fowl, goldenseal, grape seed extract, gravy, horsetail, marshmallow root, probiotics, sour cream and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and artificial sweeteners. Please keep in mind it is all about balance. A healthy pH range is between 6.5 and 8.0.
Flying is no problem though be aware silicone slightly expands at 20 000 ft. Some tell me they like to use a smaller gauge catheter on international flights. I have never tried this. I fear I would be soaked in pee before I even got on-board the plane. I have flown many times without making any changes to my daily use of SPC. I’ve been in gliders, stunt planes, across the country and on international flights. I’ve never had a problem. I do suggest reducing fluid intake. If you can’t, or the free booze is too tempting, ask the staff if you can pee in a bottle rather than trying to get to the bathroom.
Sex is the main reason I went for Super Pubic Catheters. How can I put this… Sarge is always battle ready, free to stand to attention at anytime. No having to fold an indwelling catheter back and cover with condom. No having to do a quick self catheter drain to prevent leaking pee during sex. I’m good to go anytime. Now I just need to find someone to have sex with! Haha. A friend tapes her supra pubic catheters down to her side during sex. It’s a good tip if you like it rough, your partner is worried about hurting you, or you or your partner are turned off by the sight of a suprapubic catheter. You can tape it down.
Swimming is not a problem. Disconnect your drainage device and press a stent (sterile cone shaped stopper, can use anything really) into the catheter and splash on in. Avoid drinking to much before and during swimming. If for some reason the urine cannot be drained via the suprapubic catheter you will usually bypass. The sphincter muscle which controls urination can only hold so much pressure before it will leak and you go the old fashioned way. That is a good thing! While it is inconvenient at times it acts as a safety valve. When urine can’t escape it backs up into your kidneys and will nearly always cause kidney infections (renal sepsis can be life threatening).
Sleeping puts your bladder into a dormant state, yes it sleeps too. Sleep on your back, side or front as long as it doesn’t kink the suprapubic catheter or tubing. Having a large drink just prior to sleeping will help your urine remain clear overnight. Keep your tubing and drainage device lower than your bladder. I clip the tubing full of urine onto my bottom sheet so it can’t pull on my catheter. A quick look around this web site will show you, quadriplegia and supra pubic catheters don’t prevent me from living a happy full and active life.
Sediment and Urinary Tract Infection Prevention
You will never completely stop Urinary Tract Infections (UTI). Anytime you have broken skin you’re vulnerable to bad bacteria, especially when you have a suprapubic catheter pointing the way in. Good hygiene is very important. I suffer less than one UTI/yr. The only indicators are that my urine has a stronger odor and is darker in color. Other quadriplegics shake, shiver, sweat, suffer headaches, blotchy skin or possibly display autonomic dysreflexia symptoms. Females seem to be more prone to adverse reactions to UTI.
The latest research suggests drinking large amounts of water to flush the infection through works as fast as antibiotics. UTI can grow from sediment so keeping sediment levels down is paramount. Cranberry products, corn silk, naturally brewed beer, and wine are also good UTI preventatives (see Diet above for more). I have a few beers near everyday and haven’t needed anti-sediment medicines for a number of years now.
Infections at one time were so frequent we had to change my Super Pubic Catheter every two weeks. Bacteria grows on sediment and can build up blocking the catheter’s draining eyelet’s. We would perform a bladder washout daily. Taking a large 50cc syringe and sterile bottled water (or cooled boiled water) we would push the fluid in and out to “flush” the catheter. I don’t recommend frequent bladder wash-outs. It’s much better to cure the sediment and UTI problem.
The catheter insertion point (site) itself is also at risk of infection. If the super pubic catheters site becomes red, warm to touch, crusty, tingles, smells bad and/or is pusy you probably have a site infection. A doctor can take a swab to confirm. Keep hair trimmed back away from the site as it promotes bacteria. Exposure to the sun, saltwater baths, cleaning with an alcohol wipe morning and night, keeping it dry and with good air flow, will all help avoid site infections.
Silver is a highly effective antibacterial substance which can be applied to various types of catheters. Multiple studies have suggested that silicone urethral catheters coated with hydrogel and silver salts reduce the risk of developing bacteriuria. Specifically, silver alloy catheters (coated on both internal and external surfaces) were shown to provide a greater than 3x reduction in the development of catheter-associated bacteriuria over silver oxide (coated on the external surface only), silicone Foley, and standard laytex catheters respectively. Silver alloy catheters cost around $5 more than standard laytex catheters but if you find you are prone to urinary tract infections they are worth trialing.
UTI Medications and Drugs of Benefit
Hiprex tablets (Mandelamine) Urex or Ural the anti-infection drink can help. Hiprex is a pro-drug absorbed from the gut passing into the urine where it’s hydrolysed to formaldehyde. Formaldehyde causes the breakdown of proteins/sediment essential to bacteria. However this only occurs if urinary pH is less than 5.5 acidic which is considered an unhealthy level. It’s a big pill to swallow and tastes like horse piss but they work. They recommended twice daily but one every three days was enough for me.
You may like to try D-Mannose or Ethical Nutrients Urinary Tract Support (in Aus) and Probiotic supplements (see Diet above for more). Everybody produces sediment it’s just that “regular” people don’t notice it. Tell them to pee into a jar and wait 6 hours, they’ll see sediment.
With supra pubic catheters the bladder is constantly drained. Over time the bladder may contract or shrink (like any muscle does) frequently spasming. The condition is called an overactive bladder. Ditropan, Vesicare, Enablex and Detrol LA are bladder specific muscle relaxants. These are prescribed to help reduce spasm and shrinking. You can imagine how hard it would be to get a replacement catheter located correctly when your bladder is the size of a grape. Of course, please consult your doctor before taking any new medications.
Ceasing Use of Supra Pubic Catheters
No need to worry if supra pubic catheters are going to be the right type of bladder management for you. If for any reason you are unhappy with your SPC it is fully reversible. Just leave it out and resume your old method. Of course you must consult your doctor first. The last thing you want is a raging infection left trapped inside your body.
Basically you restrict fluid intake, remove the catheter, and cover the old site with a dressing. It is that simple. For best results we suggest you cease all activity for a few days to allow the site to heal. Keep the dressing clean. Also avoid showering and over-distending the bladder. Generally your bladder will seal itself off within 10-60 minutes. The suprapubic catheter site takes a few days to weeks to fully heal and will leave a small scar. Like I said however, please consult your doctor before you go leaving it out.
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- Queensland Health: What is a Suprapubic Catheter? PDF
- Spinal Injury Center: Managing your bladder with a suprapubic catheter
- Wikipedia: Suprapubic cystostomy
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