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Intermittent Catheterization: What You Need To Know



Urinary catheters are often used to drain the bladder on an intermittent basis. There are several idiopathic or neurogenic bladder dysfunctions that necessitate intermittent catheterization, including urinary incontinence, surgery on the genitals or prostate, urinary retention, multiple sclerosis, types of spinal cord injuries, dementia, and other medical conditions.

Intermittent catheters are thin, flexible tubes that are available in various lengths to accommodate men, women, and children. They range from six to 16 inches long, and the diameter of the catheter is used to denote size in French sizes (Fr) ranging from five Fr to 20 Fr. Straight catheters usually have a straight tip, but they also come with a coudé tip, which may be necessary when there is a stricture or blockage in the urethra.

Sometimes, these straight catheters require extension tubing for some people; for example, someone in a wheelchair would have a greater degree of difficulty completing a catheterization. Catheters are made of plastic or rubber with a soft tip of latex, silicone, or red rubber.

Intermittent catheters are frequently used instead of indwelling catheters to empty the bladder and cut down on infections that often occur with a long-term, indwelling catheter. In a hospital or other medical setting, a catheterization is a sterile technique. A clean technique is adequate for a home setting. Urological nurses typically educate the patient to self-catheterize, and at times, the help of a family member is necessary. Choosing the proper size catheter is essential, and your health care provider will help with this choice. In addition, they will set up a catheterization schedule.

Another advantage of catheterization, in addition to avoiding infections, includes improved self-care and independence for the patient. Many people without insurance and those who are underinsured choose to use intermittent catheters as they can be purchased at a reasonable price. Inserting the catheter several times daily avoids episodes of bladder distention.

Assemble the items necessary before beginning the procedure. Cleanse the genital area with soap or antiseptics using cotton balls or paper towels. The hands must be thoroughly washed. Always use gloves for the insertion of the catheter to avoid infections. Women should get into a comfortable position, and it is useful to use a mirror to locate the opening of the urethra.

The catheter must be lubricated before insertion for ease of insertion. The package of lubricant can be torn at both ends, and the catheter can slide back and forth through the packet. The lubricant can also be squeezed along the edge of the catheter.

The catheter is inserted slowly into the urethra opening until the urine begins to flow through the catheter into a container. The catheter is left in the bladder until the urine is drained, and then is slowly removed. It is recommended that a new sterile catheter is always used, as the risk of infection is greater when catheters are washed and reused.