This FAQ is intended as a guide to commonly asked questions. Please always consult your healthcare professional regarding spinal cord injuries.
Why does spina bifida cause bladder problems?
The bladder, which stores urine, is controlled by the nervous system. Because spina bifida causes nerve damage, bladder function may be affected. Some people find that they need to urinate more frequently or urgently, some experience urine leakage whereas others experience difficulty emptying the bladder.
How can bladder problems affect my child’s health?
If your child’s bladder is not emptied regularly, it can cause infections. These start in the bladder but can move back to the kidneys and cause renal damage. Even small amounts of urine left in the bladder can cause infections. Alternatively, if your child cannot control the urge to urinate, he or she may leak involuntarily. Controlling your child’s bladder problems will help them to stay healthy and grow with confidence. Talk to your healthcare professional about how to manage your child’s bladder.
What is a catheter?
The catheter is a slim, flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to allow the urine to drain.
What is clean intermittent catheterisation?
Clean intermittent catheterisation is an effective bladder management technique based on the regular and complete emptying of the bladder using a sterile catheter. It requires thoroughly washed hands and good personal hygiene. The clean technique should be used by the parent helping the child, the child them self or both in the home setting.
If required, clean intermittent catheterisation is typically introduced immediately after birth to prevent kidney damage. Initially the parents will have to do the procedure but when capable, the child should take over the responsibility.
Can I use adult catheters on my child?
Catheters are available in different sizes and lengths including paediatric sizes, which are designed specifically for children.
How often should I empty my child’s bladder with a catheter?
Your doctor or nurse will start by making a bladder emptying schedule for your child. Bladder emptying is normally done 4-6 times each day. You do not need to empty your child's bladder at night if it is done just before bedtime.
Does it hurt my child?
No. Your child might feel some pressure when the catheter goes in. If your child is not comfortable or if it is difficult to slide in the catheter, take a short break. Encourage your child to relax by taking a deep breath or cough. Talk to your doctor or nurse if your child finds it painful.
Can I just empty my child’s bladder in the morning and in the evening?
No. You should follow the schedule your doctor has given you. As a rule, the bladder should be emptied at least 4-6 times a day. Can I give my child less to drink and empty his bladder less often? No. It is very important that your child drinks enough. This keeps the urinary system clean and healthy.
What if the urine looks cloudy or dark and smells funny?
Your child may have an infection. Talk to your doctor or nurse.
What if there is blood on the catheter when I pull it out?
It is normal to see small spots of blood on the catheter. If they are small and your child is not in pain, you should not worry. If there is bleeding or if your child finds it painful, talk to your doctor or nurse.
What is bowel irrigation?
Bowel irrigation is where water is introduced into the bowel using a rectal catheter. The water stimulates the bowel and flushes out the stool, leaving the lower half of the bowel empty. Before starting bowel irrigation you should always consult a doctor or a nurse to get proper instructions in use.
From what age can my child use bowel irrigation?
Your child can start irrigating from the age of 3 years. Bowel irrigation is not recommended for children under 3 years of age. Read more about Coloplast’s bowel irrigation system, Peristeen®.
How can my child get started using bowel irrigation?
In order for you child to start,, you need to get a prescription from your GP or nurse. You must also always consult an experienced specialist healthcare professional before starting up the irrigation procedure and you and your child must receive thorough instruction from a healthcare professional before using this product.
If you irrigate, can you still go on holiday?
Yes, but you should remember to bring your irrigation kit and lots of disposable catheters. They may not sell them everywhere. If you are going to use the kit abroad, use bottled or cooled boiled water in places where the tap water is not safe to drink. Remember in different time zones your child’s body may take a while to get used to a new routine. Different types of food can also affect the bowel.
What should I do if my child leaks between irrigations?
If your child experiences bowel leakage between irrigations, it may be due to insufficient emptying of their bowel due to constipation or hard stool. Alternatively, they may be using too much water during irrigation. Contact your doctor or nurse to help you adapt to your bowel plan. A Peristeen® Anal Plug may help if the problem persists.