FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is a female external catheter?
A female external catheter is a gentle, non-invasive device that can help female patients deal with incontinence or manage urination disorders. Since it doesn’t need to be inserted into the bladder, it can be used in both the short and long term, as long as it is managed carefully and changed according to the recommended schedule. Like a regular catheter, it removes urine from the body, allowing it to be carefully collected and monitored by health professionals.
These female external catheters are generally very discrete and offer women a more comfortable experience than a traditional catheter. Unlike traditional catheters, external catheters for women sit outside of the body, and as a result, are much less likely to cause catheter-associated UTIs.
Can a female external catheter cause a UTI?
Although there is some risk of UTIs associated with female external suction catheters, the risk is much lower compared to traditional catheterization. With traditional indwelling catheters, the system causes the potential of prolonged exposure to bacteria, which is the primary cause of urinary tract infections. These UTIs can affect any part of the urinary tract, from the kidneys to the bladder or urethra. Women are at higher risk for UTIs because of their anatomy.
When studies were conducted on rates of UTIs associated with female external catheters vs traditional indwelling catheters, the findings were remarkable. After hospitals made the switch to female external catheters, they saw their rates of catheter-associated UTIs (CAUTIs) decrease from 3.14 per 1,000 catheter days to just 1.42.
How does the PureWick system work?
One of the very first and most popular types of female external suction catheters was developed by BD, a frontrunner in medical technology advancements. Their system is designed around a central flexible device they call a ‘wick’, which curves to mimic the shape of a woman’s labia. Once applied to the external genitalia, the system pumps urine away from the body through tubes and holds it in a small, closed storage canister. This system can hold up to 1800mL of urine, which is on the high end of the daily average for most women. Their at-home system is quiet and can be used either with a rechargeable battery or plugged into a traditional wall outlet.
The flexible wick is designed to be used for a maximum of 12 hours, at which time it should be removed and thrown away. It’s recommended that users replace the canister and the tubing every 2 months as well. Unlike a traditional indwelling catheter, it’s easy to use the PureWick system on your own, or with the help of a loved one.
What are external catheters for women used for?
External catheters for women are used for a variety of applications. They can be used in place of traditional indwelling catheters, or simply by women who are experiencing incontinence and want a more secure system than simply using incontinence pads or protective underwear.
In a hospital setting, many practitioners are beginning to trade off traditional indwelling catheters for this external alternative. This decreases the overall risk for CAUTIs and is often more comfortable for the patient. They can also be used safely in a non-surgical setting, which makes them an appropriate choice for someone in an assisted living facility, or even living independently who requires ongoing catheterization.
What alternative incontinence solutions are available for women?
There are a wide variety of incontinence solutions for women including protective underwear and adult diapers, pads, and a host of accessories, cleaners, and deodorizers. When a woman is experiencing incontinence, very often doctors will recommend that she begin regular pelvic floor exercises, to try and strengthen the muscles in this region. In some situations, doctors may recommend a urethral insert or a pessary, which can be inserted and removed to prevent urinary leakage.
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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.