A catheter is a tube that is inserted into a body cavity for medicinal purposes. The tube is manufactured from silicone, rubber, thermoplastic elastomers, and latex. There are many uses for catheters including draining fluid collected in an abdominal abscess, administering intravenous fluids, directly measuring blood pressure, and draining urine from the bladder. The three main types of male and female catheters used to drain urine from the bladder are indwelling, condom, and intermittent or short-term catheters.
An indwelling urethral catheter is used for both men and women. It may be in the bladder as a temporary measure, or it can be left for long periods. It is attached to a drainage bag that collects the urine, and some types have a valve to control the outward flow of the urine. This catheter can be inserted into the bladder through the urethra or through a hole in the belly.
An intermittent catheter is recommended for women who cannot completely empty their bladder and for paraplegics and quadriplegics. The two types are hydrophilic and antibacterial. The antibacterial releases nitrofurazone, an antibacterial medicine that reduces the possibility of a urinary tract infection caused by the catheter.
Hydrophilic-coated catheters are covered with polymer that absorbs and binds water to the catheter, creating a smooth, slippery surface that reduces friction, making it more comfortable.
There are also external female catheters that funnel the urine through a pouch that is attached to a tube and collection bag. This type of catheter is not recommended for elderly women who are bed bound or for women in wheelchairs.
A Foley catheter is an indwelling catheter. It is a sterile, sealed system that is introduced into the urethra so the bladder can be drained. This type is used by both women and men who have urinary incontinence caused by a blocked urethra or are unable to empty their bladder. Indwelling catheters also come with antibacterial and hydrophilic qualities and are attached to overnight bags or leg bags. An intermittent female catheter is six inches long, and a male catheter is 16 inches long.
There is also a condom catheter for men that is placed over the penis. It has a drainage tube that is attached to the condom and to a catheter bag. This type is made from latex, silicone or polyvinyl and is more comfortable and gives more freedom than an adult diaper.
There are many reasons for urethral catheterization, and a doctor will prescribe the right kind of catheter. For women, certain aspects of inserting a catheter in the urethra need particular attention.