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.
Until VERY recently (it’s Apr 25th, 2017 as I type this) 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 second kind sticks directly to your leg like tape. The third and newest (and by far the best) solution is a way to suspend the bag from a belt.
Since I wrote this first wrote this article in 2013, the focus was on the old tech. In 2017, I’m going to start with the best.
The Hang-From-a-Belt Solution
As of now, there is only one product available in this category – The Freedom Belt. I wrote a full post about this here – Get Active Again With The Freedom Belt.
There are several huge benefits of the Freedom belt over and above any of the other solutions, including my former favorite – the Gip-Lok (described below).
First, no matter how heavy the bag gets (actually “bags” – this thing can, if necessary, carry up to 8 total drainage bags for a wide variety of medical procedures), they will not slide down your leg, pulling on your catheter tube.
Second, you only have to buy one. And at $49.95, you pay as much as you would for 5 Grip-Loks or 7 Statlocks (both described below).
The Stick-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 catheter.
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.
A similar product tot he Grip-Lok is something called the Statlock, which has a swivel connector. These sticker things usually can be used for a few days before they no longer stick to your leg.
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.
Where the stretchy leg band would work well
This type of leg band, however, would work really well if used in combination with something like the Freedom Belt! The belt would hold the bag up, so the leg band wouldn’t have to do that job. For folks who don’t want the tube to be to loose, but who hate putting an uncomfortable sticker on their leg, a Dale leg band used together with a Freedom Belt might be just the right thing.
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 in packs of 10. These cost about $49 but Sooo worth it.
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!