Urinary Catheter Valves

Description: A urinary catheter valve, sometimes referred to as a “catheter plug” is a tap-like device fitted into the end of an indwelling urethral catheter (IUC) or suprapubic catheter (SPC). It allows the bladder to fill and then be emptied into a toilet or container at regular intervals during the day (e.g. 4-5 times/day). This mimics the physiologic function of the bladder. A catheter valve may be used in those patients who may have other options for future bladder management, such as those who may be able to perform intermittent catheterization or those who have a catheter post-surgical procedure. The use of a catheter valve will help to prevent loss of capacity and there is some evidence that using a catheter valve with a two- to four-hourly release has been associated with reduced catheter blockage. Contraindications to using a catheter valve include severe cognitive impairment, small or limited bladder capacity, poor manual dexterity, or poor compliance with risk of renal impairment.


Valves attach to the catheter via either a smooth or ridged connector. Some are easier to open than others so assessment of the patient’s hand dexterity is important. The valve is a single-use sterile latex-free device that should be replaced every 5-7 days.


There are three main types of tap: lever, twist, and bayonet. The valve should resist accidental opening and should be leak free and discreet. Most valves have a soft connector at the end to allow for easy attachment to a drainage bag. Can attach the valve to an overnight drainage bag to allow free drainage of urine while sleeping but can also attach to a leg bag for traveling.



  • Can help maintain bladder function, capacity and tone by allowing the filling and emptying of the bladder, mimicking normal function.
  • Reduce trauma to the bladder neck and urethra from weight of urine in the drainage bag.
  • Reduces trauma to the bladder wall as the catheter and balloon floats in the urine.
  • More discreet than a drainage bag, easy to use for emptying the bladder
  • Promotes patient independence, activities such as swimming
  • Valve regulated, intermittent flow of urine through catheters has been shown to increase the time that catheters become blocked with crystalline biofilm. The most beneficial effect was seen when the bladder is drained at 4-hour intervals.
  • Potentially reduces the risk of infection as intermittent drainage flushes the catheter with urine.
  • Disadvantages
  • Requires manual dexterity to open and close tap but may not be much greater than the dexterity needed to manage a drainage bag.
  • If the patient has cognitive impairment, may not remember when and how to operate the valve which can lead to bladder dissension, urine bypassing, etc.
  • If not emptied regularly and the bladder becomes distended, can lead to ureteral reflux, putting renal function at risk
  • In a patient with a small bladder capacity or bladder overactivity, the valve may need to be opened and the bladder drained more frequently or bladder spams causing discomfort and urine leakage around the catheter, may occur.
Written by: Diane K. Newman, DNP FAAN BCB-PMD, Urologic Nurse Practitioner, Adjunct Professor of Urology in Surgery, Senior Research Investigator, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Adapted from:

  1. Woodward, S. (2013). Catheter valves: A welcome alternative to leg bags. Br J Nurs. Jun 13-26;22(11):650, 652-4. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2013.22.11.650.
  2. Van den Eijkel, E., & Griffiths, P. (2006) Catheter valves for indwelling urinary catheters: a systematic review. British Journal of Community Nursing; 11: 3, 111-114.
  3. Yates, A. (2017) Urinary catheters 5: teaching patients how to use a catheter valve. Nursing Times. 113: 5, 25-27.