Will I Urinate on Myself During Surgery?

| October 4, 2012 | 47 Comments

Patients often wonder if they will urinate during surgery. Keep reading to learn more!

Think about what happens to you when you are asleep at night. If you do not urinate while you are sleeping at night, it is usually the same way during surgery. You are able to control your bladder. Hopefully this fact will help alleviate your worries.

What about a catheter? Will I have one of those? It depends on the type of surgery you are having. Feel free to ask your surgeon or the circulating nurse about it. They will let you know if there are plans to place a catheter into your bladder.

Who will put the catheter in? Usually the circulating nurse will put in the catheter or the surgeon may choose to place it. Either way, this is a common procedure and is routinely performed by these individuals. But the reason why this catheter is placed is for your safety.

If you are having general anesthesia, the catheter will be inserted when you are sleeping. If it needs to remain in place after surgery, most patients say the catheter is an annoying sensation. Rarely do they describe its presence as being painful, though. And no one physician or nurse wants to leave the catheter in for longer than is needed for your safety.

Let us know what your experience was like during general anesthesia by leaving a comment below or visit the forum to hear what your friends have to say.

Thanks for stopping by anesthesiamyths.com!

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Category: Day of surgery

Comments (47)

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  1. Holly says:

    I am 18 years old and have had 49 brain and spinal surgeries. All the anestiaologist I have talked to say you are unable to control your bladder because you are in a deep sleep. Are they all wrong?

    • Dr Dave says:

      Hi Holly,

      Let me try to explain a bit more.

      I believe what Dr. Joe was trying to suggest is that you do not immediately “wet yourself” once you are under general anesthesia. Some people have this fear.

      However, it is possible to lose control of your bladder during surgery. The chances of this happening goes up with longer surgeries that require more IV fluids that fill your bladder.

      Part of your anesthesiologist’s job is to provide proper hydration through the IV during your procedure. Shorter cases (typically less than about 2 hours) often require less hydration. This means your bladder will likely not become too full (decreasing the chances of a urine “mishap”). We often do not place a bladder catheter for such cases.

      Sometimes, even for shorter cases, an empty bladder may facilitate the surgical process for the surgeon. In these cases, your bladder may be drained before the surgery but after you are “asleep” (sterilely via a catheter, but it is immediately removed). This is known as an “in and out cath” in OR speak.

      But for longer procedures, more IV fluids may be required to properly take care of a patient. Urine output also becomes an important measure of your “volume status” during these cases. Your anesthesiologist tracks this to help guide the fluid management.

      All these factors, and possibly others, go into the decision of whether to place a bladder (foley) catheter.

      I hope this helps clear things up.

      Dr. Dave

      • Holly says:

        I really appreciate you responding and explaining this to me. I have always been interested in how they keep you asleep and the gases they use,ect. By the way you should come up with something to make the gas that they make you breathe in smell better it really is nasty, you would become a millionaire!
        I do have one more question if you don’t mind answering it for me. I have had so many surgeries and I.v.s that my veins are very scarred and I am a horrible stick. I was looking into having a port placed since apparently the problem I have is harder to fix than we thought and no one knows how many more surgeries it will take to make me better.
        Here is my question: can you put propofol into a port? I asked the anesthesiologist I had on Friday and he said yes but my neurosurgeons nurse asked a different anesthesiologist and he had said no. If you could answer this that would be great.
        Thank you again!

        • Dr Dave says:

          Hi Holly,

          Glad I was able to help clear things up.

          You can put propofol into a port, as long as it’s functioning properly.

          For various reasons, anesthesiologists may not prefer to have a port as their only source of IV access. I suspect this may be why you are getting different responses.

          But a port is a form of semi-permanent intravenous access, usually through a major vein like the internal jugular or the subclavian. So there’s nothing preventing propofol from being given by this route.

          Once a port is in place, one option may be to use the port to “put you to sleep” and then obtain another IV source. Ultimately, the plan will be up to the anesthesiologist taking care of you.

          Best of luck to you on your road to recovery.

          Dr. Dave

        • Joecel says:

          Dr. Dave,
          Is a urine catheter placed during sinus surgery (complete FESS)? I know the surgery could take up to 3 hours. And who would normally place it? Thank you for your time.

          • Dr Dave says:

            Joecel,

            This is one of those judgement calls. Usually, the anesthesiologist will speak with the surgeon and then decide what is best for that particular patient.

            If it’s decided that a Foley (urine) catheter is needed, it is usually placed by the circulating OR nurse.

            If you are scheduled for surgery, you could ask your surgeon if he/she thought you would need a catheter for that particular procedure.

            Take care,

            Dr. Dave

          • Joecel says:

            Dr. Dave,
            Thank you for taking time answering my question. I just have a follow up question. What would warrant the use of a Foley catheter? Does age or previous medical history be the deciding factor?

            • DrJoe says:

              Joecel,

              Usually the foley catheter is placed at the request of the surgeon for several reasons other than previous medical history or age. For instance, a full bladder may obstruct the surgeon’s vision if he/she is doing an abdominal surgery. In this case, a foley catheter would be requested by the surgeon to keep the bladder empty during the surgery.

              Other times, the surgeon may request a foley catheter so that the bladder does not become too distended during a lengthy surgery. Foley catheters are also a helpful indicator of a patient’s hydration status.

              In your case, I suspect that the decision to place a foley catheter during your FESS will depend on the surgeon’s preference and how long your case is anticipated to take. Don’t hesitate to ask the surgeon and the circulating nurse about this prior to your surgery.

              Best of luck and let us know how it goes!
              Dr. Joe

  2. Ella says:

    Hi all,

    I have had five surgeries under general anesthesia, including a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, elbow surgery, and sinus surgery just to name a few. During my sinus surgery (which lasted roughly 1 and 1/2 hours) I awoke to find that I had urinated on myself. However, I remember the nurse mentioning that she had forgotten to clip or clamp my IV shortly before surgery began, and I suspect I received a large volume of fluids beforehand (probably more than normal). I never had this problem during previous surgeries, and I hope it never happens again!

    Ella

    • Dr Dave says:

      Ella,

      I’m sorry you had this embarrassing experience. But please understand that for us health professionals that work in the operating room, it’s just part of the job to deal with such matters.

      It’s definitely possible you got a fluid bolus prior to the surgery starting. However, your anesthesiologist is in charge of fluid administration from the moment he/she takes charge of your care.

      There may have been a reason to give you “extra” IV fluids.

      I’m sorry you had that unpleasant experience on “waking up”, but am happy you otherwise had a safe anesthesia experience.

      Dr. Dave

  3. J Smith says:

    I just had a EGD done today. I had went to the restroom prior to going into the ER. I woke up having urinated on myself. It can happen. The
    Procedure usually only takes 20 minutes. Embarrassing yes but certain I’m not the first or the last to experience this.

    • DrJoe says:

      Thanks for letting us know about your experience. This is exactly the type of information that will help ease the worry of many others, so I commend you for your honesty. You are right, you are not the first person to have experienced this. And I am thankful that you weren’t traumatized by it :)

      I know that one day I will be a patient and the same situation might happen to me. So it is comforting to know that it was not a big deal. Have a great weekend.

    • Mischka says:

      I just returned from the er having an EGD as well and I also urinated myself after having gone before the procedure. I thought I would have had a catheter……hmmmm I guess not….oh well

  4. Karen says:

    I am wondering if a catheter is needed for a thyroidectomy which is supposed to last two hours? I have OAB and take Detrol for it.

  5. Sam says:

    I’m having stapedotomy and also tympanoplasty in 12 days. Are people normally intubated? Will I receive a folley Cath? About how long are these precedures? Thanks!

    • Sam,

      Thanks for your questions. Normally, these procedures take a few hours. You will most likely have some type of breathing device in place while you are asleep. Whether this means you are intubated with a breathing tube or have a LMA (laryngeal mask airway) in place will be at the discretion of the anesthesiologist. Don’t worry, you will be asleep when this breathing device is in place.

      And surgeons do not usually request a foley catheter for these cases. In fact, I have not had a patient myself who had a foley placed for a tympanoplasty. Feel free to ask your surgeon about this before the procedure.

      Hope this helps. Please come back and let us know how you did :)

      • Sam says:

        Thank you so much! Also one more question, I have a metal retainer glued on behind my lower teeth. Should I have this removed for the operation?

        • Sam,

          Don’t have this metal retainer removed. It should not cause any problems with the anesthesia. Good luck!

          • Sam says:

            Hello again! Had my operation early this morning. It was a 2 hour precedure. The anathseologist didn’t want to do a mask induction ( I hate needles, they have to knock mr out first.) I got to hold my DOCTORS hand as I went our. My doc did the tympanoplasty and instead of the stapes bone, it was the incus that he removed and replaced. He said it was like it was frozen and wasn’t moving.

            Recovery was long but I got Jello. When i woke up I was In pain but the nurse gave mr some meds fast. Doctor came in the recovery room twice!

            Very nice people. Now I just have to make it thru two weeks bed rest, two months recovery and 19 weeks before the prostheses bonds together where my incus . By the way, what is the operation if removing the incus called? I’ll let u know about all the other details when I get the report :)

            Sam

            • Sam,

              Thanks for the update! I am glad that the surgery and anesthesia went well. Not sure of the specific name of your operation, though.

              It is good to hear that the nurses and doctors treated you well. It’s always great to hear positive feedback :)

  6. Jessica Rivera says:

    I just had a sinus surgey. And when i woke up they were pulling my panties off saying i peed on myself. So i guess i am asking is that normal, or what went wrong. Did they give me to much medaction.?
    Please help me clear this up…
    Thank you, Jessica

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for your question, Jessica.

      This does not mean that anything necessarily went wrong.

      For shorter procedures, a urine catheter is not usually needed as this typically does not occur. If the case will take longer, a urine catheter will usually be placed. It’s hard to say what happened in your case. It could be that your surgery took longer than anticipated and/or you needed more IV fluids than usual.

      Take care,

      Dr. Dave

  7. Just Me says:

    I had a really hard time with a foley a few years ago. I’d had several gyn procedures plus a cystoscopy and the catheter was to be in for 24 hours. I was on lithium and needed to drink a lot of fluids on top of the IV fluids (I felt very thirsty which was usual). I started having bladder spasms several hours after surgery and every nurse who came in did something different, usually saying that the nurse before her was wrong. Ultimately I was left with the urine being drained back into my bladder, causing terrible pain. The nurses kept interpreting this as surgical pain despite my insistence it was bladder pain. I was on vicodin and was not near the dose time. I wasn’t allowed ibuproferon and they refused to give morphine (or pull the catheter). After 3 hours of terrible pain my surgeon came in for rounds and ordered it discharged. I immediately urinated over 20 ounces and my pain level went from an 8 to a 3. It was a terrible experience.

    The next year I had a hysterectomy and made sure my dr knew what had happened since I would be going back to the same unit post-op. This time she took care of everything and the nurses listened to me, the catheter was positioned correctly to allow drainage into the bag, pain meds were given when needed and it was an entirely different experience.

    The talk to your doctor advice is right on.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, good and bad!!

      All the best to you and your family.

      Dr. Dave

  8. Chris says:

    Just had surgery today <3 hour procedure. Went under with undies and a gown on. Came out with a different gown and no undies. The post op nurse kind of whispered "you know you had an accident" when giving me my clothes and a plastic bag with my underwear. I laughed and said "whoops" and threw the bag in the trash.

    I figure they've seen it all and the Marine Corps and fraternity in college killed any sense of modesty :). She seemed relieved at my attitude and smiled. Take it all in stride and pretend it didn't happen if you need to.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Thanks for sharing, Chris.

      Accidents like that do happen, though it’s rare. Most health care folks are discreet and professional about it.

      Dr. Dave

  9. Megan says:

    Hello. I just recently underwent an open appendectomy and was wondering a few things. 1) I was wondering if they normally use a catheter for the procedure. I have had a history of UTIs in the past and I had mentioned this to my surgeon and OR nurses and they had me go pee right before going in for the operation. When waking up in the PACU I hear my nurse tell the other I had voided before and was wondering if they were telling her about me peeing before the surgery as I was never told I had peed or was told a cath was placed during the operation. The operation lasted about an hour.
    2) I was wondering if they remove the gown for an open appendix removal. I think I had the same one on I went in with as the snap covering my bottom going in and coming out was broken :)
    Thanks for the help. I greatly appreciate it. I just didn’t want another UTI…arghh

    • David Draghinas says:

      It sounds like the nurse was relaying the information that you had urinated right before surgery. For an appendectomy, it’s often up to the surgeon whether he would like a urinary catheter placed. The surgery does not typically take long, and if you had just emptied your bladder, you likely didn’t have one placed.

      You could ask your surgeon to make sure.

      The gown would have had to be removed or at least brought up to your chest (with blankets/covers placed below your waist) in order for your abdomen to be sterilely prepped and draped.

      I hope this information helps and that you stay UTI free.

      All the best,

      Dr. Dave

  10. Natalie says:

    Hi. I just had a breast lift with augmentation. The surgery was 2 and a half hours. I woke up with a swollen vulva and trouble urinating. I asked the nurse if they had catheterization me and she looked in my chart and said that it said I did not have one. I was swollen and had trouble for a couple of days. Prior to surgery I asked if there would be a catheter. Because I have a history of sexual abuse, I was going to request they put it in while I was awake and could give consent.
    I talked to my plastic surgeon today and told him what happened. He said they most likely did put a catheter in and I just wasn’t informed. This is really triggering me and I don’t know what to do. I’m having another procedure next week that will only take an hour but I already don’t trust the hospital. Any ideas on what May have actually happened?

    • Natalie,

      This is a very serious issue, especially given your past history.

      This is what I suggest: Contact your plastic surgeon’s office and ask to speak to his / her nurse. Not in a confrontational tone, but one of information-gathering. I am extremely confident that no one desired to breach your trust and safety.

      Just explain it as you did here. There is no doubt they will find the details out for you which hopefully will help ease your anxiety about your next upcoming procedure.

      Best of luck to you.

      • Natalie says:

        It’s funny you responded to this today. This morning, before my surgery, I talked to 6 different nurses and 2 different anesthesiologists. They all emphatically assured me that there was no catheter the first time and even that my doctor very rarely orders one for his patients.
        Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am greatly relieved.

  11. Summer says:

    I had an ERCP yesterday. Following the procedure and after the recovery stage, I went into the bathroom to put my clothes on. I was shocked to discover that my panties were soaked in front with urine. On the ride home I tried to figure out why this happened. I was on my stomach for the procedure and I received at least 1,200 cc. of IV fluid during the 25 minute procedure. I had a general anesthetic. I figure I was in such a deep sleep that when my bladder got full of this fluid, and with the weight that was being placed on my bladder, that the urine just came out. A bit embarrassing, but oh well.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Summer,

      What you are describing can happen, although it is pretty rare.

      While this can be pretty embarrassing for patients, operating room staff simply take care of it. We are used to taking care of much tougher issues.

      Take care,

      Dr Dave

  12. cel says:

    Hi I am having a strabismus surgery that should take 2 hours. Will i need a catheter??

    • David Draghinas says:

      That will depend on your surgeon and anesthesiologist.

      My guess is “no”. That’s not a surgery that requires much fluid administration, and that two hours is not that long a case.

      Take care,

      Dr Dave

  13. The truth is urinary catheters are often unnecessary. I appreciate the fact that Dr. Joe Jackson brought up the truth that you usually would not urinate during surgery if you do not urinate while you are sleeping. Many people can sleep for 6-7 hours without waking up to go to the bathroom. I encourage everyone to read this important article: Unnecessary Urinary Catheterizations and Lack of Informed Consent (http://patientmodesty.org/catheterizations.aspx).

    Misty

  14. Alice says:

    Hi, my name is Alice and I am fourteen years old. Just today I had a tonsil removal surgery and had to be put to sleep during the procedure. I vaguely remember that at some point when the anesthesia was being transmitted into my body, I unexpectedly began to pee myself. I mumbled something along those lines to the nurses and they said it was okay. That’s when I began to lose consciousness.
    I had gone to the washroom before and I really didn’t feel like urinating. I was mainly surprised that it had happened. It was extremely unexpected and rather embarrasing once I awakened, but I’m alright with it. After all, I’m sure doctors and nurses have seen much worse.
    Anyways, I just thought I’d share my experience and hopefully it’s helpful to others! :)

  15. Christina says:

    Hey I’m having the gastric sleeve done February 17th and I wonder if the catheter is mandatory in this kind of procedure I also like to know if they put it in while I’m awake I’m nervous wreck I never had catheter before is it very painful for females

  16. Christina says:

    Hello I am having surgery February 17 and I and the heavy the gastric sleeve procedure and I wanted to know if a catheter is mandatory and I would like to know is it’s very painful and and if they put it while you’re asleep or awake I’m nervous because I never had a catheter in before isn’t very painful for females I was like petrified I’ve never done this before

  17. Katie says:

    Hello! I am glad to find this post since I just had surgery today and had an experience I felt like worth sharing. I recieved an excisional biopsy of a very large tumor in my left breast. Luckily, nothing that looks cancerous :) but also “luckily” I just so happened to be on my period during the surgery! (Which is another different ballfield of an issue I was concerned about).
    I am a 23 yr old and have also been diagnosed with a bladder disease called interstitial cystitis which causes me to have less bladder control than most women my age (and I’ve never even had a baby!) My procedure was only and hour long and did not require a catheter. I used the restroom about 2 hrs before the antisthetic and (I’m going to be blunt here) I was using a tampon and a large pad stuck to hospital provided mesh panties as a backup just in case. The nurses said they would make me go pee one more time and never did, but I didn’t push the issue since I didn’t feel the urge. I was also given a little extra fluid that contained glucose because I am also hypoglycemic and the whole fasting thing before surgery isn’t great for me.
    When I immediately woke up from surgery I felt the TOP of my gown was extremely wet from my groin area to the bottom, but not the bottom under me or the bed. My instant panic was I’d wet myself during surgery, however, I figure if I really had it would be underneath me right? I asked the nurse why my gown was wet, but I literally had just woken up and all I remember hearing was “doctors must have….. fluid.” So I let it go. However, when I was awake and ready to get dressed again I discovered no leakage on the pad from my period (thank god) but my large pad was soaked in urine, whoops!
    So, the jury is still out on wether I peed enough to soak my gown and for some reason it absorbed the top, and the nurse spared me the embarrassment, OR if they really spilled some sort of fluid on me. BUT I did pee enough accidentally to soak a large pad and boy was I grateful I had it!
    I just wanted to share my story because I was so worried about a period leakage and did not in the least expect what really happened. I never even knew bladder leakage during surgery could happen but I’ll be fully prepared next time :) On the brightside, people in the medical profession have seen all sorts of things and urine is the least of their worries. If it happens to you, brush it off and don’t be embarrassed! I’m 23 and haven’t even given birth and it happened to me, but I’m just going to be excited I am rid of a very large and painful tumor! Yaaay!

  18. dana says:

    I just had surgery on my akillies tendon after surgery while in recovery I had stopped breathing why is and is it normal not to mention this was lik my fourth surgery

  19. Steve says:

    Hello

    I’m having some “minor ” colorectal surgery the doctor said it would take over an hour give or take pending on what they find during the fistula surgery. I’ll be under or they talked about a epidural. In either case will they put a Foley catheter in?

    • Steve says:

      Same day surgery and no eating or fluid after midnight. I go for my pre surgery physical on the 1st.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Hi Steve,

      It will ultimately be up to your surgeon and anesthesiologist.

      For general anesthesia less than two hours, they may not place a Foley catheter. However, if they place an epidural, they likely will place a Foley.

      You and your surgery are in our thoughts and prayers.

      Dr Dave

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