Kidney Transplant: How to Prevent a Bladder Infection

Kidney Transplant: How to Prevent a Bladder Infection


The best way to prevent a bladder infection after transplant surgery is to know how and why you get them. We will review this information with you and answer any questions that you may have.


The urinary system

The urinary system includes these organs:

  • Two kidneys that filter waste from the blood. The waste is passed out of the body in the urine. Each kidney is about 5 inches long and 2 inches wide. They are located just inside the lower ribs in the back.
  • Two ureters or tubes that come from each kidney to drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
  • The bladder holds the urine until you urinate.
  • The urethra is the tube that carries the urine from the bladder out of the body.
normal urinary system

    After kidney transplant

    • Your transplanted kidney filters the waste from the blood. This waste is passed out of the body in urine. The transplanted kidney is put in the lower abdomen. It can be on the right or the left side. Your natural kidneys remain where they are.
    • The transplanted ureter is sewn into the bladder to carry urine from the new kidney to the bladder.
    urinary system with transplanted kidney and ureter

      Why women get more bladder infections

      Women, in general, tend to get more bladder infections than men, even before a transplant because:

      • A women’s urethra is about 1½ inches long. This means the bacteria have only a short way to travel to reach the bladder.
      • Sexual intercourse can irritate the urethra. It is also a way that bacteria transfer from person to person.
      • When taking a tub bath, the water can enter the urethra. This water can stay in the urethra and allow bacteria to grow.

      Transplant further increases the chance bladder infection because:

      • The medicines you take to prevent organ rejection lower your body’s ability to fight off infection.
      • The surgery includes sewing the ureter to the bladder. Any surgery to the bladder increases the chance for infection.
      • Urine is normally acidic. After a kidney/pancreas transplant, the urine becomes non-acidic. Bacteria grow quickly in non-acidic urine.


        How to prevent a bladder infection

        Follow these steps at home to reduce the chance of a bladder infection:

        • Drink 3 liters (96 ounces or twelve, 8-ounce cups) of fluid each day unless you have been instructed by your transplant care team to follow a different limit. This will increase the amount of urine you make and will flush out your bladder and urethra.
        • Do not hold your urine. Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge. Bacteria grow quickly in urine.
        • After you urinate, wait a minute and try to urinate some more. This can help you more fully empty your bladder. This is also called double voiding.
        • Urinate after sexual intercourse.
        • After you urinate or have a bowel movement, wipe yourself from front to back. This decreases the chance of bacteria moving from the vagina or anus to the urethra and bladder.
        • Do not wear tight-fitting clothes or stay in a wet bathing suit. These do not allow air to move. If the area stays moist, bacteria can grow.
        • Wear cotton underpants to keep the urethra opening dry.
        • Take showers, not baths. Bathing allows water to stay in the urethra where bacteria can grow.
        • Women should use tampons or change sanitary pads every 3 to 4 hours. This decreases the time bacteria from the vagina is in contact with the urethra.


        Call the Transplant Center at 800-626-2538 if you have these signs of bladder infection:

        • A fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.
        • Frequent urination.
        • An urge to urinate, but you are unable to urinate.
        • Burning when you urinate.
        • Foul smelling urine.
        • Cloudy urine.
        • Low back or abdominal pain.

        Some patients may not have signs, but if you do, get help. Do not wait for your next appointment to mention the problem.


        Tips to help you recover

        Bladder infections occur in about half of patients with kidney transplants in the first 3 months after surgery. Here are some tips to help you recover from a bladder infection:

        • Drink at least 3 liters (96 ounces or twelve, 8-ounce cups) of fluid a day or the amount recommended by your transplant care team. This will increase the amount of urine you make and will flush out the kidneys and bladder.
        • Some foods and fluids may irritate the bladder during recovery. Avoid carbonated drinks, caffeine such as coffee, tea and chocolate, citrus juices, such as orange and pineapple, alcohol, and strong spicy foods.
        • If you are given an antibiotic, take all doses as ordered. If you do not take all of the medicine, the infection may not clear up.


        © 2001 – August 29, 2019, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

        This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information, call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: