Sleeping with a Catheter: Choosing Between a Urinary Leg Bag and an Overnight Drainage Bag

May 22nd 2017

Updated November 16, 2023

Should I Use an Overnight Drainage Bag or a Urinary Leg Bag

What is a Urinary Leg Bag?

Hollister Urinary Drainage Leg Bag for Foley Catheter

A leg bag is a specialized device designed for urine collection. These bags, wearable above or below the knee, offer a range of features and styles to meet individual needs:

  • Connection: Leg bags can connect directly to Foley catheters or external condom catheters. For those who prefer wearing the bag on the calf, extension tubing can be used for the connection.
  • Versatility:
    • Styles & Sizes: There are numerous designs available to cater to personal preferences.
    • Strap Varieties: Choices include button closures, Velcro straps, and combination designs where bags attach to straps via buttons.
    • Leg Bag Holders: For those who dislike straps, leg bag holders resembling leggings are available. These come with pockets to securely hold the bag. They can be found in both "thigh" and "knee/calf" styles.
  • Usage Considerations:
    • Position: For effective urine drainage, the leg bag should be positioned lower than the bladder. This makes them ideal for use while standing or moving.
    • Resting: Typically, leg bags aren't designed for lying down, with the exception of the Rusch Belly Bag. However, it's worth noting the Rusch Belly Bag is only compatible with Foley catheters.
    • Activity: Despite requiring a catheter, individuals can still partake in many day-to-day activities with the aid of leg bags.

Feel free to explore different styles and find the best setup for your comfort and convenience.

What is an Overnight Drainage Bag?

Bard - 4000ml Urinary Drainage Catheter Bag

Overnight urinary drainage bags are designed specifically for nighttime use, providing several advantages:

  • Size and Capacity: These bags are substantially larger than typical leg bags. Their significant capacity ensures that users don't need to wake up to empty them during the night.
  • Extension Tubing: Equipped with approximately 60" of extension tubing, these bags allow users greater mobility in bed without the risk of tugging or displacing the catheter.
  • Design Variety:
    • As with leg bags, overnight bags are available in numerous styles.
    • Drainage mechanisms differ, with each bag featuring a unique closure valve.
  • Positioning for Optimal Use:
    • To function correctly, the bag must be positioned below the level of your bladder.
    • It shouldn't be hung from elevated areas like the bed's headboard. Ideally, it should dangle from the bed's side.
    • Placing the bag inside a waterproof bin can be a practical choice. If doing so, ensure the bag is securely hung to avoid tipping within the bin.
  • Additional Tip: Keeping a spare overnight drainage bag can be beneficial in case of unexpected leaks or other issues.

Considering these factors ensures a hassle-free and comfortable night while using an overnight urinary drainage bag.

Should I Use a Urinary Leg Bag or Overnight Drainage Bag?

Bard Bardia Overnight Catheter Drainage Bag

Should I Use a Urinary Leg Bag or Overnight Drainage Bag?

Understanding the differences between an overnight drainage bag and a urinary leg bag is essential for individuals using them. One of the most prominent distinctions is the overall size of each product.

Overnight Drainage Bag - Designed to hang next to your bed during sleep or rest.

  • Capacity: Ranges from 2000 ml to 4000 ml, allowing for a full night's sleep without the need to empty it.

Urinary Leg Bag - Meant to be worn on the leg during daily activities it includes leg straps that secure around the thigh or calf and has a discreet design that can be worn under pants and even some shorts.

  • Capacity: Typically between 19 and 32 ounces, requiring emptying when about 3/4 full.

By opting for an overnight drainage bag, both the user and their caregiver can benefit from uninterrupted rest without the hassle of emptying the bag in the middle of the night.

How to Switch from a Urinary Leg Bag to an Overnight Catheter Bag

  • Bard Dispoz-a-Bag - Urinary Catheter Drainage Leg Bag with Straps (Tube and Clamp)
    • 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 healthcare provider before changing your routine.

    FAQ: Sleeping with a Catheter and Leg Bags

    What are the risks of sleeping with a catheter leg bag?

    Sleeping with a catheter leg bag comes with several potential risks. These might include:

    • Risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to extended wear or improper maintenance.
    • Potential for the bag to overflow if it's not emptied in time.
    • Possible discomfort or restricted blood flow if the straps are too tight.
    • Risk of dislodgement or tugging on the catheter during sleep movements.

    Can you wear a catheter leg bag at night?

    While it's technically possible to wear a catheter leg bag at night, many experts recommend switching to an overnight drainage bag for sleep. This is mainly because overnight bags have a larger capacity, which reduces the risk of overflows. Additionally, the positioning of an overnight bag might be more comfortable and safer during sleep.

    How long should a catheter be left in?

    The duration a catheter should be left in varies depending on the type of catheter, the reason for its placement, and individual circumstances. Generally, some catheters might be in place for a day or two, while others could be required for weeks or even months. Regular check-ups with a healthcare professional are essential to determine the appropriate duration and to prevent potential complications.

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