Understanding Different Types of Catheters

Understanding Different Types of Catheters

6 minute read

What is a Catheter

You've probably heard about catheters, but what exactly are they? Catheters are vital in modern healthcare, assisting in various medical procedures and treatments. There are many types of catheters but they are all flexible tubes doctors and other healthcare providers use in various medical situations. 

This article will explain why they are used, how they function and why they're important. So, let's dive into catheters with a straightforward approach.

What Conditions do Catheters Treat

The most common reasons for catheter use are:

  1. Urinary Retention: They help when people have trouble emptying their bladder due to medical issues like an enlarged prostate or neurological disorders.
  2. Surgery and Post-op Care: Commonly used during surgeries involving the urinary tract and post-surgery to monitor urine flow.
  3. Incontinence Management: Useful for managing urinary incontinence when other treatments are ineffective. (2 articles for further reading: What are the First Signs of Incontinence and How to Manage Urinary Incontinence). Fecal Incontinence is a separate issue and has different treatment and prevention.
  4. Bladder Issues: Used for individuals with conditions like spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or congenital disorders that affect bladder function.
  5. Diagnostic Testing: Catheters assist in collecting urine samples and precise measurements for medical assessments.
  6. Postpartum Care: After childbirth, they can help with urination difficulties, especially with epidural anesthesia or prolonged labor.
  7. Palliative Care: Used in end-of-life or hospice care for patients unable to manage urinary issues independently.

Catheter Types

Catheters can be broadly categorized into two main types:

Indwelling Catheters (Permanent Catheters)

Indwelling catheters, also known as permanent catheters, are designed to remain in the bladder for an extended period. They are usually suggested for particular situations, especially when patients have significant physical limitations that make it difficult for them to manage on their own.

Foley catheters are the most commonly used indwelling catheters. They feature a balloon at one end that is inflated inside the bladder to prevent slippage. At the other end, they have one or two openings, with some variants having an additional opening for bladder irrigation (3-way catheter). The opening for urine drainage is connected to a collection bag, often attached to the leg and positioned below the bladder level for efficient drainage. Regular emptying of this bag is necessary when it becomes full.

Alternatively, individuals can opt for a suprapubic catheter. This catheter is inserted into the bladder through the abdominal wall. Inserting and periodically extracting indwelling catheters requires the assistance of healthcare professionals due to the specific skills and procedures involved.

Coloplast Folysil 2-Way Indwelling Catheters Tiemann (Coude) Tip 15CC, Latex Free - Box of 5

Coloplast Folysil 2-Way Indwelling Catheters Tiemann (Coude) Tip 15CC, Latex Free - Box of 5


Coloplast Indwelling Catheter Coloplast Folysil 2-Way Indwelling Catheters feature a significantly larger lumen. This helps to reduce obstruction and inhibit encrustation. The larger-diameter eyelets allow for better drainage, while an atraumatic tip adds to ease of insertion. The Folysil Indwelling Catheters… read more

Intermittent Catheters (IC)

Intermittent catheters, used for a limited duration to empty the bladder, have gained popularity over the years. This method allows for regular bladder emptying, reducing the risk of complications and upper urinary tract infections.

Innovative solutions have made intermittent catheterization more accessible, ensuring hygiene, safety, and ease of use. Complete kits are readily available, containing hydrophilic catheters with integrated urine collection bags, sterile water containers, and sheaths to facilitate the procedure without direct contact with the catheter.

Intermittent catheterization empowers individuals to regain autonomy in various situations, including in bed, in a wheelchair, at work, or during travel. Providing peace of mind, safety, and hygiene enhances the quality of life on social, relational, and professional fronts.

Hollister Apogee Intermittent Catheters - 14 FR

Hollister Apogee Intermittent Catheters - 14 FR


Hollister Apogee Intermittent Catheters Hollister Apogee Intermittent Catheter is a key component in treating patients with incontinence. This product is ideal for patients with reduced sensation or those who have difficulty moving traditional catheters. It resides in the bladder and… read more

How to Use a Catheter

Using a catheter may seem daunting, but understanding the process is essential for your health or the well-being of someone you're assisting. The first step is recognizing that the procedure varies depending on the type of catheter chosen.

Healthcare professionals are your go-to guides in this journey, as they typically provide comprehensive training sessions to ensure you get it right. Their expertise and guidance are invaluable, so don't hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification whenever needed.

Maintaining a consistent catheterization routine is paramount. It's not just about convenience; it's about preventing potential complications that may arise from neglecting this vital aspect of self-care. Residual urine accumulation in the bladder can lead to numerous issues, including urinary tract infections, discomfort, and even more severe health concerns.

By following the prescribed catheterization schedule diligently, you're not only taking control of your health but also ensuring a smoother and more comfortable journey towards well-being. Remember, it's a routine that, when done right, can significantly improve your quality of life.

The proper procedure for using a catheter depends on the type chosen and is typically taught by healthcare professionals during training sessions. It is crucial to follow medical prescriptions and practice catheterization regularly. Failure to do so can lead to residual urine accumulation in the bladder, potentially resulting in various complications.

What is Self-Catheterization?

Self-catheterization, often known as clean intermittent catheterization (CIC) or intermittent self-catheterization (ISC), is a practical method for individuals with difficulty urinating. True to its name, this process puts you in charge as you handle the procedure yourself.

The essence of self-catheterization lies in inserting a slender, hollow tube called a catheter into your bladder via the urethra, the tube responsible for expelling urine from your body. As you do this, urine flows through the catheter and into a toilet or a designated container. 

Once your bladder is sufficiently empty, you gently remove the catheter. This routine is repeated intermittently throughout the day to ensure proper bladder management.

Caring for a Catheter

Taking care of a catheter may not be a glamorous task, but it's crucial for your health or the well-being of someone you're looking after. Whether it's an indwelling catheter that stays put for a while or an intermittent catheter used briefly, the basics of care remain essential. 

Keep things clean, wash your hands thoroughly before touching the catheter, and follow the specific care instructions given by your healthcare provider. Regularly emptying the collection bag, avoiding tugging or pulling on the catheter, and checking for any signs of infection are all part of the deal. Proper catheter care ensures a smoother journey toward recovery or daily living.


Catheters have been indispensable tools in modern healthcare vital in various medical procedures and treatments.

We explored the two main types of catheters: indwelling catheters, designed for long-term use, and intermittent catheters, which offer a flexible and hygienic solution for regular bladder emptying. 

The innovation in intermittent catheterization has empowered individuals to do their catheters called self-catheterization, a technique allowing individuals to control their bladder management. This process, while requiring some practice, offers independence and convenience for those experiencing difficulties in urination.

Lastly, we emphasized the importance of proper catheter care. Maintaining cleanliness by following manufacturer and healthcare provider instructions is critical to the success of this procedure. Monitoring for signs of infection is essential in catheter care to ensure a smoother journey toward recovery and daily life.

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