What is an External Catheter?

In exploring options to deal with urinary incontinence, many patients find the use of intermittent catheters to be a daunting prospect. The use of incontinence products, in general, can be a great adjustment for patients who have conditions which necessitate their use. For men, due to possible physiological obstructions and difficulties, intermittent self-catheterization can be particularly intimidating. In cases such as this, many men will explore options which do not require traditional catheterization.

What is an External Catheter

The external or condom catheter is a considerably less invasive form of catheterization than most intermittent catheter systems. Condom catheters use a latex or rubber shell to encase the tip of the penis and connect directly to a drain bag most commonly strapped to the inner thigh. Because no part of the catheter enters the patient’s urethra, there is considerably less risk of damage to the urethra, as well as infection which can stem from improper hygiene practices during catheterization. In fact, a 2006 study by the American Journal of Geriatrics found that patients utilizing external or condom catheters were nearly 40% less likely to develop a UTI than compared with those patients on a program of intermittent catheterization.

One of the most common concurrent health concerns for men with urinary incontinence is an enlarged prostate. This condition can make standard straight intermittent catheters nearly impossible to utilize with any degree of success. Many men may even find the coude tip catheter, which is often prescribed for just such a complication, to be difficult to successfully insert multiple times a day. For patients who have difficulty with the process, the convenience and ease of an external catheter may be preferable.

One of the main benefits of external catheterization is discretion and convenience. Because they must be changed considerably less frequently than most types of intermittent catheters, condom catheters can greatly reduce overall trips to the bathroom for patients utilizing them. Whereas many types of intermittent catheters must be changed multiple times a day, condom catheters are changed most often once daily. Catheterization can often require patients to plan ahead in order to ascertain discrete and sanitary locations for them to catheterize. This can be particularly cumbersome when traveling or attending long events such as sporting events or conferences. In cases such as these, the larger volume of a condom catheter and the ease of utilizing it without as much upkeep and maintenance can make external catheters very appealing.

Urinary incontinence can be a major life adjustment, but it does not have to be painful, difficult, or embarrassing. When supported and educated properly, many patients can maintain their previous quality of life even when utilizing catheter products. Men with urinary incontinence should consider the possibility of external catheter use even sporadically when conditions such as travel or events necessitate it.

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.