UNDERSTANDING URINARY CATHETERS
What is a Catheter?
A common medical device that has been safely used for centuries, urinary catheters are soft tubes made from silicone or latex that help the bladder drain urine. One end of the hollow tubing typically sits in the bladder, while the other end is connected to a drainage bag. Catheters are typically employed when the bladder and/or urethra (also known as the urinary tract) are blocked or malfunctioning either permanently or temporarily, due to injury or disease. Depending on your individual medical condition, different types of catheters may be prescribed, including intermittent catheters, Foley catheters, or non-invasive external catheters.
How does a Catheter Work?
Urinary catheters drain urine from the bladder through a tube to a heavy duty collection bag where it is temporarily held until emptied. Depending on the reason for catheterization, either an external or indwelling catheter will be prescribed by your healthcare professional. External catheters, most commonly used by men, are worn on the outside of the body; while indwelling catheters like Foley or intermittent catheters require an insertion tube that is fed through the urethra into the bladder. In both instances, urine is drawn out of the bladder by gravity, or in some cases suction, and is collected in an attached leg bag, belly bag, or bedside drainage bag. Intermittent catheters, however, can also drain directly into a toilet when possible.
Certain medical conditions may require a suprapubic catheter. This type of catheter enters the bladder through a small incision in the lower abdominal wall to drain urine.
What is a Catheter Used For?
Urinary catheters are used to void the bladder of urine when a patient is unable to do so independently. Depending on the patient's underlying medical condition, the type of catheter prescribed will differ.
Intermittent catheterization is a preferred treatment for patients with acute or chronic bladder dysfunction as a result of injury, medical condition or surgery. Common conditions associated with intermittent catheter use include neurogenic bladder, urethral stricture, urinary incontinence and vesicoureteral reflux.
Foley catheterization is used for both short term and long term care. Common short term uses include acute urinary retention, acute bladder outlet obstruction, accurate monitoring of urine output in critically ill or surgical patients, following or during prolonged surgical procedures. Common long term uses include chronic urethral obstruction where intermittent catheterization has stopped working or is not possible, to improve comfort for patients with irreversible or chronic medical conditions, and for incontinence care when a caregiver cannot be present.
External catheters are often a welcomed alternative to the invasive intermittent catheter and most commonly used when a patient is able to perform his or her own incontinence care. Indications for external catheter use include incontinence, overactive bladders, dementia, injuries limiting mobility, alcohol withdrawal, or in situations where an internal catheter is ill-advised like chronic urinary tract infection or those with bladder stones.
For more detailed information, please see the category page for each specific catheter type.
URINARY CATHETER TYPES
Intermittent catheters, also known as straight catheters or in-and-out catheters, are soft, flexible tubes inserted through the urethra. Features such as fire-polished eyelets, various tip styles, and hydrophilic packaging provide many options.
Also known as a balloon catheter, a Foley is an indwelling catheter retained in the bladder by a balloon inflated with sterile liquid. Foleys are most often inserted by a qualified healthcare professional in clinical settings.
A male external catheter, also known as a condom catheter or a Texas catheter, is an external urinary collection device that fits over the penis like a condom. Female external catheter solutions are also available.
Closed-system catheters, a type of no-touch intermittent catheter, is a sterile, pre-lubricated catheter enclosed in its own urine collection bag that reduces the risk of bacterial infections.
Catheter - a tubular, flexible instrument, passed through body channels for withdrawal of fluids from (or introduction of fluids into) a body cavity.
Urinary Catheterization - the insertion of a blunt-ended, rubber or plastic tube into a patient's bladder through the urethra used as a conduit to drain urine from the bladder into an attached bag or container.
Indwelling Catheter - A hollow tube left implanted in a body canal or organ, especially the bladder, to promote drainage.
Suprapubic Catheter - Urinary drainage device inserted into the bladder through the lower abdominal wall above the symphysis pubis. Indications include urethral trauma, vaginal surgery, or long-term catheterization.
Clean Catheterization - a common way for people with neurogenic bladders that do not empty normally to void their bladders on a routine schedule; clean, rather than sterile, technique is used.
*Sourced from https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/
Understanding French Sizes
Most urinary catheter manufacturers use the French gauge system to denote the width of the tube. Typically a Foley or intermittent catheter package will be marked with the letters 'Fr' preceded by a number between 6 and 26. These numbers refer to the diameter of the catheter tube - the smaller the number, the narrower the tube. To convert a French scale size to millimeters, simply divide the number preceding the 'Fr' by three. For example, if the French catheter size is 14 Fr., the actual diameter of the catheter is 4.67mm. To easily identify a catheter size after removal from the packaging, a universal color code on the catheter connector is used by most brands. Most common sizes for men, women, and children are as follows:
- Male Sizing Standard: 16 inches in length and range in width from 14 Fr. to 18 Fr. The most common male intermittent catheter and indwelling catheter French size is 14 Fr.
- Female Sizing Standard: 5 to 6 inches in length and range in width from 10 Fr. to 14 Fr. The most common male intermittent catheter and indwelling catheter French size is 12 Fr.
- Pediatric Sizing Standard: 10 inches in length to accommodate both boys and girls; range in width from 5 Fr. to 12 Fr.
Please note: Each individual's anatomy and medical conditions are different. Appropriate catheter sizing will be determined by your healthcare professional.
Male External Catheter Size Chart
Male external catheter sizes are typically measured in millimeters. For proper fit, use a measuring tape to find the circumference of the penis just behind the head. Divide the length in centimeters by 3.14 to find your size in millimeters and compare to your preferred brand's sizing guidelines or chart.
Tip: If between sizes, use the smaller size available. An external catheter will stretch to provide a good fit but a loose external or condom catheter will not properly adhere.
Please note: While many men will find a standard size that will fit properly, not all manufacturer's use the same guidelines. Check your preferred manufacturer's sizing recommendations before purchasing.
FOR MORE INFORMATION & RELATED ARTICLES
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does a catheter hurt?
While initial discomfort is common as a patient adjusts to wearing a catheter, the overall experience should not hurt. Even during insertion, your doctor will likely provide some sort of pain relief to make the experience less uncomfortable. If you are experiencing pain after wearing a catheter for a period of time, it could be a sign of a larger issue. Speak to your doctor or healthcare practitioner right away if you have any pain including cramps, itching, or burning. You may be able to minimize pain through medication, or by using more catheter lubricant during insertion. Ultimately, most people don’t notice that they’re wearing a catheter after they get used to the sensation.
Can a catheter cause a UTI?
A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is any infection that involves the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. Since a catheter passes through the urinary tract, catheter-associated UTIs are common complications. The risk of developing CAUTIs, however, can be reduced by diligently practicing good hygiene and carefully placing the urinary collection system below the level of the bladder. Leg bags are useful for this reason, since they are positioned below the bladder whether the person is in a sitting or standing position. Bedtime drainage bags offer an overnight solution.
How do I flush my catheter?
If you notice that your drainage bag is cloudy or is starting to smell, your catheter probably needs to be flushed. This is an easy process that’s made even simpler when you use an irrigation tray. To start the process of flushing your catheter, begin by washing and drying your hands well, then use a syringe to pull out any excess urine from the catheter tubing. Then use another syringe with saline solution to flush out the catheter tubing. Finally, clean off the tubing before reinsertion. Upon completion of this process, the urine flowing into the drainage bag should be clear and flow freely.
THE COLOPLAST CORPORATION
Ostomy, Urology, Continence, Wound and Skin Care for Intimate Healthcare Needs
In 1954, Danish nurse, Elise Sørensen, was inspired to find a solution to help her sister, an ostomy surgical patient, overcome the fear of experiencing a leaky stoma in public. She conceptualized the world’s first adhesive ostomy bag and turned to the husband and wife team of Aage Louis-Hansen, a civil engineer, and Johanne Louis-Hansen, a fellow trained nurse, to help her realize the dream. Together the team brought the first ostomy bag to market and the Coloplast Corporation began its decades-long journey to find solutions for those living with intimate healthcare conditions. Today, Coloplast remains dedicated to the advancement, innovation, and production of quality catheter and urology products, wound care, incontinence care, and ostomy supplies.
COLOPLAST FAMILY OF INTERMITTENT CATHETERS
Speedicath® Hydrophylic Catheters
In 2000, Coloplast embarked on a journey to redefine the standard of intermittent catheterization. Working closely with both clinicians and patients, Coloplast introduced Speedicath®, the world’s first completely ready-to-use hydrophilic intermittent catheter. Available in multiple sizes with straight tip and coude tip for both men and women, this revolutionary catheter allows patients to conveniently self-catheterize anytime, anywhere.
More than 50 years ago, Coloplast invented the first single-use intermittent catheter and continues to provide men, women, and children the highest quality of standards dedicated to comfort, convenience, and ease of use. Self-Cath® is Coloplast’s legacy line of catheters, offering traditional options like straight tip, olive and tapered coude tips, and closed-system catheters in a variety of sizes and materials.
SureCath® Catheter Sets
SureCath® Closed-System Intermittent Catheter Sets were designed as an all-in-one solution for those on the go. Each easy-to-use catheter set includes a hydrophilic-coated catheter, sterile saline solution and a urine bag making self-catheterization convenient even for those with limited dexterity. SureCath® Catheter Sets are available as single units or in boxes of 20, in multiple sizes and with or without insertion supplies such as exam gloves, CSR wrap, and iodine prep pads.
OTHER COLOPLAST CATHETERS & CATHETER ACCESSORIES
Coloplast Silicone Foley Catheters
Coloplast’s Folysil® is an all-silicone foley catheter inserted either through the urethra or in a small incision in the abdomen above the pelvic bone area, or suprapubicly. The indwelling catheter has an innovative two way Coudé to optimize drainage and minimize blockage common with longer-term use and a conveniently easy-to-inflate balloon. The thinner nature of silicone allows for a larger flow area within the catheter tube than its latex counterparts of the same size. Coloplast’s Folysil® catheters are available in multiple sizes by prescription only.
Freedom® External Clear Male Catheters
Male external catheters, also known as condom catheters or texas catheters, are sheaths worn on the penis to collect urine. The external catheter is attached to a tube that drains into a urine bag. Coloplast’s Freedom External Male Catheters are available in a latex rubber and a long-wearing silicone version known as the Freedom® Clear series. To ensure a secure fit, both styles are self-adhering and come in multiple diameters and lengths.
Coloplast Catheter Bags
Coloplast’s Conveen Catheter Bag line is intentionally discreet and ultimately secure for day and night use. Available in a variety of contours and with features like soft cloth backing and latex-free fabric straps for comfort, anti-kink tubing, and anti-reflux valves to prevent backflow of urine, Conveen leg bags are manufactured with reliability and convenience in mind. For instance the innovative Conveen Security+ Extra Large Leg Bag doubles as a nighttime drainage bag offering flexibility and ease of routine.
Coloplast Manhood® Absorbent Pouches
Coloplast Manhood Absorbent Pouches are a non-invasive alternative to catheterization and a perfect solution for light to moderate male incontinence. Each pouch is designed with a discreet appearance in mind, has a wide adhesive band for stay-in-place security, and is made of super absorbent polymers that pulls the liquid away from the skin keeping your skin dry. Manhood Absorbent Pouches can hold up to 8 oz. of liquid and measure 5.75" long, 4.5" wide at the widest point and 3" wide at their narrowest point.
MEDICAL ADVICE DISCLAIMER
The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, charts, and any other material on this site, is intended for informational purposes only and does not take the place of medical guidance provided by your physician. No information on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult a qualified medical professional about your condition or circumstances before undertaking a new healthcare regimen.