Self-Cathing

The Self-Cathing Experience Journal is a collection of stories, videos, and personal experiences from families about what it has been like to live with clean intermittent catheterization. The Journal represents the “collective wisdom” of families and health care providers. A group of parents and health care providers has reviewed all of these contributions for appropriateness.

Clean intermittent catheterization (CIC), sometimes called self-cathing, involves periodically emptying the bladder using a thin tube called a catheter. This technique is used when patients are unable to empty their bladders completely on their own.

The Experience Journal was created by Boston Children’s Hospital. We welcome family members to enter and explore the Self-Cathing Experience Journal.

The Journal has the following chapters:

There are many reasons that patients may need to self-cath, falling into three basic categories:

    Functional problems involve bladder dysfunction without an anatomic abnormality or neurological disorder. Symptoms may be caused by recurrent infections, a history of holding urine, or other negative emptying patterns that disrupt normal bladder function. Functional problems are often temporary.

    Anatomic problems involve bladder dysfunction caused by atypical anatomy (e.g., bladder exstrophy, posterior urethral valves). Abnormalities are usually present at birth and may require corrective surgery. Children with anatomical problems affecting bladder function often need lifelong catheterization.

    Neurological problems involve damage to the nerves connecting the bladder to the brain, a condition known as neurogenic bladder. Common diagnoses include spina bifida and tethered spinal cord. Neurological disorders are usually present at birth, and may require corrective surgery. Children with neurogenic bladder often need lifelong catheterization.

We have chosen to group all these problems together and focus on the common experience of self-cathing. However, please keep in mind that every patient is different, and discussions of alternative treatments, complications, and timelines may not apply to you. We have color-coded the self-cathing stories so that if you are interested in reading stories about a particular diagnostic category, you are able to do so easily.
Functional problems are labeled in blue , anatomic in yellow , and neurological in green .

Editor’s note: Some families identify medications and products that work well for them. The Experience Journal does not endorse specific brands. Each individual is different, and we invite you to discuss products with your doctors and nurses to see if they are right for you.