Holding up your catheter, especially while walking around, is hugely important for a number of reasons. First and foremost you need to prevent any pulling and tugging on your catheter. Above all else you need to prevent that since it can not only pull the thing out of you, but cause you huge amounts of pain and possible damage.
You need a good way to hold your catheter in place if you plan to do any walking around. If you don’t do it right, things will start slipping down your leg and pulling, causing you pain.
So you need to secure the catheter to your body – usually your leg – in some fashion. There are a few different types of catheter holders, usually called catheter securement devices – available out there. They come in two main varieties: stretchy fabric leg bands with velcro that just stay on your leg sort of like nylon stockings, through elastic tightness around your leg. The other kind sticks directly to your leg like tape.
The Sick-To-Your-Leg Type
In the stick-to-your-leg category, I was fortunate enough to be sent home wearing a particular kind of securement device called the Grip-Lok 3400LFC (LFC = Large Foley Catheter). It is basically a sticker that has two velcro straps on top of it. These work extremely well for holding the catheter in place while you are wearing a leg bag, especially if you have a Foley catheter, which has two outlets you can use sort of like a hook between the velcro straps. See the drawing on the left. And of course they work well at night to prevent the bedside drainage bag from pulling on the cath.
If you don’t have a Foley catheter with two outlets (see the picture), you will have to do something extra to keep the catheter tube from sliding up and down under the strap.
For example, I was originally sent home with a pigtail catheter, not a Foley. Pigtails only have one outlet since there is no balloon on at the other end to inflate (which is what the second outlet on a Foley is for). Pigtails are held in place by the curled-over shape of the portion of the catheter that is inside your bladder, and in my case, a stitch through my skin as well. So even though you can secure the catheter to your leg, downward pressure such as is exerted by a leg bag can easily pull the catheter down through the hole in the securement device, especially as the bag fills up and gets heavier. Actually, this is true of any type of securement device.
In that case, what I ended up doing was wrapping a bunch of tape around the tubing above the securement device that was wider than the opening so it wouldn’t be pulled down through it. See my post Tip For Wearing A Leg Bag With A Suprapubic Catheter for more details, and illustration, on how I did this.
The Stretch-Fabric Leg Band Type
Just to test them out, I tried using one of the velcro ones today while walking around. All I can say is – oh hell no! I hadn’t walked half-way across the room before it had slipped down my leg a bit and started putting tension on the catheter. The only thing you can do is stretch it tighter, which works only a little better (I could walk across the entire room before it started slipping), but you can only make it so tight before it starts getting really uncomfortable and even cutting off your circulation.
Now I realize there are many folks in the catheter-wearing community who cannot walk, and the stretch-fabric type of securement device might be preferable to you, especially if you do not like having something taped to your skin. But if you are lucky enough to be able to walk, I cannot recommend using one of these. Stick (no pun intended) to the other type. [update: I tried using a stretch leg band while sleeping last night. At first I thought it would be just fine – even better than my GRIP-Lok. But I woke up several times in the night with pain at the insertion site because the band not only turned sideways, but also worked its way down my leg a bit and was pretty loose. The bag was still hooked to the side of my bed, but the relatively heavy thicker tubing on the bedside bag was enough to pull on my “cath-hole” and cause pain. So all-in-all, I think that unless you cannot use the tape-type holders on your skin, the stretch-fabric leg band is not a great idea.]
There is also foam type similar to the stretch-fabric type, but I have not tried one of those. If you have, let us know how they work in the comments.
As soon as I ran out, I tried to find more GRIP-Loks, only to be very disappointed. They were REALLY hard to find commercially available. And if you do manage to find them, usually on a medical supply website, they’re typically only sold in boxes of 100, costing around $400 dollars or so. Yow!! That might well be worth it, though, if you have a super long-term catheter – or must have one for the rest of your life.
But GOOD NEWS – I found a place where you can order the Grip-Lok singly, as in you can buy just one if you want:).
They go for $5.69 per sticker.
I found that one of these would last me almost an entire week.
If you have any tips or tricks for holding your catheter in place, please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!