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Catheter Basics
17 April 2019

Catheter Basics

If you’re new to using catheters the idea of catheterization may seem debilitating at first, but it won’t take long before it becomes part of your everyday life. A catheter is a tube that is inserted into your bladder, allowing your urine to drain freely. The hollow tube has openings on both ends so that an inserted catheter allows urine to flow naturally out into a collection bag or the toilet.

The bladders job is to fill, store and empty out urine throughout the day. But when the bladder has trouble storing urine, emptying urine from the bladder, or both, catheterization may be required. Catheterization helps the bladder empty naturally and helps keep you and your bladder healthy.

Urine naturally fills the bladder when the walls of the bladder relax. When the bladder becomes full, catheterization is used to completely empty the bladder at regular intervals throughout the day. This prevents urine remaining in the bladder, which is important because residual urine in the bladder can act as a reservoir for bacteria to live and grow. Additionally, by completely emptying your bladder, you may experience less leaking of urine throughout the day. Catheters allow you to control when your bladder empties, leading to a more active, confident and healthy lifestyle.

There are many types of catheters. The most common include:

Foley-style Catheters

A Foley catheter is a sterile, thin tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine. A Foley catheter can be left in place for a period of time and is also called an indwelling catheter, which means it can be left in the bladder for a period of time.

Indwelling Catheters

Indwelling catheters are generally inserted by a medical professional. The indwelling catheter design is similar to other catheters; however, an inflatable balloon anchors the catheter in the bladder for long periods of time. Indwelling catheters can remain in the bladder for 3-4 weeks, depending on your physician’s instructions.

Straight Catheters

Straight catheters are part of intermittent catheterization, the periodic emptying of the bladder with a sterile catheter each time a person caths, which helps prevent Urinary Tract Infections. Straight catheters are designed for patients who have chronic bladder problems and are able to perform the catheterization themselves.

Unlike Foley-style catheters, they do not have a round balloon at the end to secure it in place. Straight catheters come in a variety of sizes, and are designed for males, females, and even pediatric usage.

Coudé Catheters

A coudé catheter, sometimes called a coudé tip catheter, is a urinary catheter with a slightly curved tip that is designed for easy insertion. Coudé catheters are similar to straight catheters, but their curved tip is used to navigate around obstacles (such as an enlarged prostate).

More commonly used in men, coudé catheters can be used in women when they develop obstructions that require the use of catheters with a curved design. In addition to being used by doctors and nurses, coudé catheters can be used at home by patients who may need to self-catheterize when recommended by a physician.

Closed-Kit System or "Cath Kits"

A Closed-Kit System prevents and can resolve repeated UTIs as well as other types of infections. This method is the safest form of catheterization because it is the most sterile. This type of kit comes with supplies to ensure that the catheter does not come into contact with any bacteria before entering the bladder.

External Catheters

External catheters are also known as condom catheters because they conveniently roll over the penis like a condom and attach to a discreet collection bag. External catheters continuously assist with leakage from the bladder.

Intermittent Catheters

With intermittent catheters, patients insert and remove the urinary catheter several times a day, eliminating the need to wear a continuously draining catheter. Leaving urine in your bladder for a long time can lead to a distended bladder or a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Intermittent catheterization may help reduce these potential problems, giving you more freedom for a better quality of life.

Always consult your physician with questions you may have about your catheterization needs. You and your physician should decide how often you should cath and which catheter will be best for your quality of life and to keep your bladder the healthiest. They will teach you how to perform intermittent catheterization and answer any questions you may have. It will be a new and different process for you, but with practice, catheterization will become a healthy and routine part of your life.