Choosing the Right Urinary Catheter

Types of Catheters

Urinary catheters are a complex and diverse group of medical products. While they all serve a similar ultimate purpose, the specific needs and demands of each individual patient can lead to some confusion as to which product is right for them. Patients who are considering catheterization as a solution for urinary incontinence should exercise diligence in choosing the right urinary catheter for their lifestyle and health requirements.

Intermittent Catheters

By far the most common type of catheter is the Intermittent Catheter. Medicare will cover up to 200 of these single-use, disposable catheters each month, allowing for frequent catheterization. These are available in both straight tip and coude tip varieties. The straight tip is the most frequently used of these two due to the fact that Medicare requires patients demonstrate a medical necessity that specifies the use of a coude tipped Intermittent Catheter. This need will arise from specific patient anatomy which makes straight tip catheter insertion difficult or impossible. This is especially true in men who have an enlarged prostate, where the curved coude tip catheter is the only choice for insertion into the bladder.

Hydrophilic Catheters

As insertion can be one of the main barriers to appropriate catheter use, Aeroflow Healthcare recommends that patients use a hydrophilic catheter. Hydrophilic catheters are lubricated with sterile water rather than gel, more closely mimicking our body’s own natural fluids. This produces greater ease of catheter insertion, helping encourage patients to catheterize whenever the need arises, leading to greater compliance with catheter treatment.

Indwelling (Foley) Catheters

Beyond simple intermittent catheters, there are also Indwelling, or Foley, Catheters. This type of catheter is replaced monthly, usually with the aid of a licensed medical professional. As with Intermittent Catheters, these are available in both the straight tip and coude tip varieties. Again, patients who can demonstrate a specific medical need will often opt for the curved coude tip version of a Foley Catheter as they tend to be easier to insert for many people. The obvious advantage of Foley Catheters is that the frequent process of catheterization must be repeated much less often. For patients with a more active lifestyle that can make frequent catheter insertion difficult, Indwelling Catheters can be a good option. This type of catheter is also frequently utilized for a preset period of time, such as after a surgery which can lead to urinary incontinence, since the catheter can be inserted by a doctor or nurse while the patient is already in their care. Foley Catheters are also available in a silicone version which enables patients with a documented latex allergy to avoid any unpleasant reactions to catheterization.

External (Condom) Catheters

For men, Condom Catheters are yet another option for urinary incontinence. Rather than being inserted directly into the urethra as with Foley and Intermittent Catheters, a Condom Catheter is used externally on the penis. Medicare provides for up to 30 of these catheters a month. As they can help avoid the sometimes difficult process of catheterization almost entirely, this can be a popular choice for men who have had difficulty with traditional Intermittent Catheters.

Closed System Catheters

Finally, for patients with very specific sets of medical criteria, Medicare will cover a Closed or Sterile Catheter System. While this system is more complex and thus expensive, it will significantly reduce the likelihood of urinary tract infections, by far the most common consequence of catheter use. If patients already on traditional Intermittent Catheters have had at least 2 urinary infections in the past 12 months, Medicare will cover a closed system. Additionally, patients in nursing homes, immunosuppressed patients, patients with vesico-uteral reflux, and spinal cord injured pregnant female patients can also qualify for this system.

Navigating the complex decision of which catheter is right for your personal needs should be a collaborative decision between the patient, doctor, and their medical equipment provider. Navigating the middle ground between medical necessity and patient requirements can be a complicated affair. For more information on the different types of catheters, visit our products page.

If you are in need of catheters, fill out our Qualify Through Insurance form and talk to a representative about your specific needs. You may qualify to receive your catheters through Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance at little to no cost to you. Contact Aeroflow Healthcare today in order to make an informed decision on your personal catheter needs, and measurably improve your quality of life.

Information provided on the Aeroflow Urology blog is not intended as a substitute to medical advice or care. Aeroflow recommends consulting your healthcare provider if you are experiencing medical issues relating to incontinence.