What is a Urinary Leg Bag?
A leg bag is a device used to collect and hold urine. It is worn on the leg and it can be worn above or below the knee. Leg bags can be attached directly to a Foley catheter or an external condom catheter. If you would rather wear your leg bag on your calf, the leg bag can be attached to extension tubing which would then connect to your catheter. Leg bags are versatile. They are available in many different styles and sizes. Even the straps come in many different styles. There are button closures, Velcro, and leg bag straps that close with Velcro but the bag itself attaches to the straps with buttons. Don't be afraid to try different styles until you find the leg bag set up that works best for you. If you don't like straps at all, consider a leg bag holder. These holders are worn almost like a legging and come with a pocket that holds the leg bag securely in place.They are available in "thigh fabric leg bag holder" and "knee/calf fabric leg bag holder" varieties. Leg bags are not meant to be worn while you are laying down. The leg bag needs to be worn lower than your bladder in order for your urine to drain into the leg bag. The only exception to this is the Rusch Belly Bag, and it does not work with condom catheters, you can only use it for Foley catheters. Leg bags are intended to be used while you are going about your day. Remember, just because you need to use a catheter that doesn't mean you can no longer enjoy many of the same activities you were enjoying before.
What is an Overnight Drainage Bag?
An overnight urinary drainage bag is a large drainage bag that comes with around 60" of extension tubing. Overnight bags are much larger than most leg bags. The size is important because the overnight drainage bag will hold more urine than a leg bag which means you won't have to get up in the middle of the night to drain it. Just like leg bags, overnight bags come in many different styles. The way the bag drains can vary, different overnight bags have different closure valves. Regardless of the drainage valve, all overnight bags are intended to work while you sleep. Larger size bags accommodate a full night of output and since the tubing that is included is much longer than standard extension tubing you can move around in bed without pulling or disturbing your catheter. The overnight bag needs to be lower than your bladder to work properly. You can't hang the overnight bag from the headboard of your bed or anything like that. You will want to hang the overnight drainage bag from the side of the bed while being sure to keep the bag below your bladder. I think it is helpful to place the overnight bag inside of a water-tight bin. Many people hang the bag from the side of the bin; make sure the bag doesn't tip over the plastic bin. It is also nice to have a back-up overnight drainage catheter bag in case your bag starts to leak.
Should I Use a Urinary Leg Bag or Overnight Drainage Bag?
What is the difference between the two? The biggest difference between an overnight drainage bag and a urinary leg bag is the over-all size of the product. The other important difference is that a leg bag is meant to be worn and an overnight bag is meant to hang next to your bed while you are sleeping or resting. A leg bag is designed to be worn on your leg while you are moving and going about your day. The leg bag has straps that go around your thigh or calf, these straps hold the leg bag in place. You can easily wear pants over your leg bag and some leg bags are designed so they can be worn with shorts. When your leg bag is 3/4 of the way full, it will need to be emptied. Most leg bags hold between 19 and 32 ounces. Overnight drainage bags hold between 2000 ml and 4000 ml. What this means is, by switching to an overnight drainage bag you will be able to sleep through the night without you or your caregiver having to get up to empty a leg bag.
How to Switch from a Urinary Leg Bag to an Overnight Catheter Bag
- Put on disposable exam gloves (this helps reduce contamination).
- Empty the leg bag, be careful not to open the drainage valve until you are over the toilet.
- Remove the leg bag from the catheter if it is connected directly to the Foley catheter or remove it from the extension tubing if that is what you are using to connect the the catheter to the leg bag.
- Do not contaminate the Foley catheter by letting it touch the floor or any area that is non-sterile! For extra security, use a disposable underpad to give yourself a clean work surface.
- Before attaching the Foley catheter to the overnight drainage bag you should wipe the end of the catheter with an alcohol prep pad to sanitize the area, also wipe the tubing connector with the prep pad too.
- Once the Foley catheter connection is sterilized, attach it to the overnight drainage bag's tubing connector and place the bag in a water-proof bin or hang it from the lower part of the bed.
*These are instructions for people who are using Foley catheters. For external catheter users, the instructions are the same but you will not need to sterilize the catheter tubing or the top of the external catheter before switching to the overnight drainage bag. The added sterilization for Foley catheters is a precaution because using Foley catheters can put you at risk for urinary tract infections. It never hurts to be cautious and sometimes the small steps we take can help us avoid big problems. Make sure you consult your doctor before changing your healthcare routine.