Indwelling urinary catheter (IDC) factsheet


An indwelling urinary catheter (IDC) is a thin, flexible tube used to drain urine, or wee, from your child’s bladder. 

The IDC is inserted through the urethra, the hole where urine comes out. The tube then goes up into the bladder, the organ that stores urine. 

Your child may need to have an IDC:

  • to help when the bladder is holding too much urine, known as retention
  • if they are having surgery, that will stop them from using the toilet
  • to keep urine away from a wound from surgery.

 About this equipment

Inserting an IDC can feel uncomfortable, but it should not be painful.

Generally, the steps to insert the IDC are:

  1. the area around the urethra is cleaned 
  2. if the catheter is going into a penis, a gel that contains anaesthetic can be used to stop pain
  3. the catheter tube is covered with lubricant, which is a slippery gel
  4. the catheter tube is slowly pushed into the urethra and the bladder.

The IDC is in place when urine starts to drain out of the tube.

Your child’s IDC might also have a small balloon at the end of the tube inside the bladder. After the IDC is inserted, the balloon will be filled with water to help keep it in the correct position.

The tubing outside your child’s body will be connected to a bag to collect the urine. The bag will be taped to the groin, belly, or upper thigh.

Children who wear nappies may not need a urine bag because the urine can drain into the nappy.

 Care of the device

Your child must have good hygiene when they have an IDC to lower the risk of germs getting into the tube and causing infection.

Good hygiene means:

  • washing your hands with soap before and after touching the IDC
  • cleaning around the urethra with warm, soapy water
  • having a shower instead of a bath if they can move around.

Ask your nurse about any items you might need to help wash your child while they have an IDC.

Parents and carers must check the IDC regularly to make sure it drains properly.

You will need to:

  • make sure the tubing sits below where the bladder is
  • check where the tubing and bag are when your child is moving in bed or walking around
  • look for kinks or blockages in the tubing.

Tubing can become blocked or kinked, and the balloon can become deflated. When this happens, your child’s urine might not properly drain into the bag or nappy or leak out onto their clothing.

Let your child’s nurse know as soon as possible if you notice the IDC is not working as it should.

 When to seek help

There is a risk of infection when your child has an IDC. Infection is when germs get into the body and cause illness. 

Signs of infection can include:

  • a fever greater than 38.5°C
  • redness, swelling and discharge around where the tubing goes into the urethra
  • changes in the colour, smell, and thickness of your child’s urine
  • sudden pain
  • bleeding.

Let your child’s nurse know as soon as possible if you notice any signs of infection.


Removing the IDC

An IDC is usually only needed for a short while and will be removed 24-48 hours after it is inserted. The longer your child has an IDC, the higher the risk of getting an infection.

Your child’s treating team will talk to you about options if your child needs an IDC for a longer period.

To remove the IDC:

  1. a nurse will clean the area around the urethra and remove the tape from your child’s skin
  2. the bladder balloon is deflated
  3. the tube is pulled gently until it is out.

The tube should come out smoothly. If there is resistance, your child will need to be seen by a doctor.

After the IDC is removed, your child will need to do a wee on their own within 8-10 hours.

This is to make sure the bladder is working properly. If this doesn’t happen, your child might need another IDC inserted.

Double nappies

Children who wear nappies usually need double nappies when they have an IDC.

The first nappy that sits against your child’s body is used to collect any poo. 

A second nappy will be placed over the first, and the end of the IDC tube will be taped inside so the urine can drain out. 

Layering your child’s nappies will help keep urine away from surgery wounds while they are healing. You will need to check your child’s first nappy regularly for poo.

If your child’s first nappy needs to be changed, remove the nappy and wash the area around the urethra with warm, soapy water before replacing it with a new, clean nappy.

Last updated Tuesday 30th January 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024