Thursday, May 28, 2009

Catheters: Internal and External

In this business we handle all kinds of situations and hear about the many challenges that people face every day. We have written about incontinence previously in this blog. Today, we want to take a look at another of the many options as folks handle temporary or permanent incontinence, catheters.

Most of us unfamiliar with the world of incontinence might only associate catheters with the use of them in a hospital situation. If you have been in the hospital for an inpatient procedure of some kind, you might find that a catheter has been inserted to make you more comfortable as you recover. While generally comfortable when inserted while you are under anesthesia, inserting an internal catheter yourself can take a bit of getting used to.

Essentially, there are two types of catheters available to men - internal and external. For women, there is only the internal catheter option. There are several internal styles designed for self-insertion, the Foley catheter, straight, or coude tip. The circumference of a catheter is measured using the "French" system, typically 14FR, 16 FR, 18FR, and so on. Specialists often recommend using the smallest French possible, which they can help you determine. Catheters are attached to a bag that collects the urine, unless an individual inserts a catheter for immediate relief of a temporary condition and can direct drainage directly into a toilet or other receptacle. Leg bags strapped to the upper leg are typical for catheter users who continue their everyday activities. For those who are not ambulatory, there are bags of a larger capacity that attach to wheelchairs or beds.


  • The Foley catheter is a thin sterile flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder to drain urine. Because it can be left in place for a period of time it is often referred to as an indwelling catheter. There is typically a balloon at the end inflated with sterile water to help keep the catheter in place.
  • A straight catheter is designed for insertion into the urethra and features an opening at the inserted end. It is a straight flexible tube with a rounded end to prevent any trauma to the tissue.
  • Coude tip catheters feature a slight bend at the tip, generally making it easier for some men to slip the catheter past the prostate. This type of catheter is also recommended for those with a narrowing of the urethra or a urethral blockage.

Insert catheters under the most sterile of conditions, including the use of gloves, to avoid risk of infection. Lubricants are also recommended to assist with insertion. Training and practice will provide more comfort to the person inserting the catheter, generally the individual him/herself.

Men also have the option of using an external catheter which operates like a condom. The external condom catheter, sometimes called a Texas style catheter, comes in small, medium or large sizes designed to slip over the penis. A drainage tube at one end connects to a bag that collects the urine.

Speak with a health care professional if you believe your condition could benefit from the use of a catheter. At Capabilities, we have trained professionals who work with individuals having a range of conditions with incontinence as a key symptom. We keep a selection of typical catheters on hand and can order specialty catheters upon request. Please contact us for more information on catheter types and availability.

2 comments:

Nitrile Gloves said...

Most of us unfamiliar with the world of incontinence might only associate catheters with the use of them in a hospital situation. That's why some basic medical education should be given during the primary education.

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dharmesh said...

That was a really good post. It helped me to make sense of some of the issues with the subject.

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