The Complete Guide to Catheters
Self-catheterization can be intimidating, especially to a new catheter user. At Aeroflow Urology, we have the supplies and support to help you safely and confidently catheterize. If you have questions about what kind of catheter is right for you or need discreet answers to questions, give us a call at 844-276-5588, and one of our Continence Care Specialists will be happy to help you.
There are many different types of urinary catheters, each with various features and styles, but the basic design of most catheters is the same. We’ll each outline the purpose and function of each part in more detail to help you understand the design of a catheter.
1. Tip - The tip of the catheter has small eyelets and is the part that is inserted into your body, through the urethra, into the bladder. Once the tip is in the bladder, urine enters the catheter tube through the eyelets and can start draining. The tip of the catheter can be straight, as shown in the picture, or can be curved to help the user navigate around any blockages in the urethra. Curved tip catheters are known as coudé catheters and are popular among males who self-catheterize, but can also be used by women.
2. Tube - Depending on what catheter you are using, the catheter tube can be of different widths, lengths, and materials. The tube of the catheter allows the urine to travel from your bladder to the toilet or the drainage bag, depending on your supplies. The width of the catheter is known as the french size and can range from 5-24. Your doctor will assist you in selecting the correct size to prevent any pain or leaking while using the catheter. If you are unsure of your french size or are experiencing issues using your catheter, please reach out to your healthcare provider. Catheters also come in a variety of lengths, male catheters are usually 16 inches in length, while female catheters are typically 6-8 inches.
3. Drainage Opening - Also called the funnel, is the drainage opening and is wider to allow urine to flow out of the tube and into the toilet. In single use catheters, this is the end of the catheter system. In closed system catheters, the tube is in an attached drainage bag. The funnels can be different colors depending on the french size, this way you don't have to worry about using the wrong size catheter.
- Uncoated Intermittent catheters - single use catheters that require lubrication to be placed on the catheter before it is used. Lubrication packets are a supplemental item that will need to be ordered with your catheters.
- Coudé tip Intermittent catheters - as mentioned above, coudé tip are catheters that have a curved or bent tip at the end. Coudé is the french word for elbow, and the curved end of the catheter can help catheter users navigate around narrower areas or blockages while inserting the catheter.
- Pre-lubricated Intermittent catheters - also known as coated catheters come with lubrication already applied, so there is no need to apply lubrication before use. Coated catheters can help reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) by helping keep the catheter sterile.
- Closed system catheters - a pre-lubricated intermittent catheter that drains into a collection bag rather than into an open reciprocal.
- Indwelling/Foley catheter - these catheters stay inserted over a period of time, rather than only a short period, and have a retention balloon to keep the catheter in place.
- External or condom catheters - designed specifically for the male anatomy, these catheters fit over the penis (like a condom) and attach to a tube that drains into a collection bag.
Catheters come in a variety of sizes ranging from as small as 5 up to 24. The French size (Fr) is calculated by multiplying the catheter's diameter (in millimeters) by 3. For example, if the catheter has a diameter of 2 mm, it will have a Fr size of 6. Most catheters will have the French size marked on the drainage funnel or use a particular colored funnel to indicate the size. Your doctor will help you select the correct catheter French size and length. If you have any concerns about your catheter size or are experiencing pain or leakage while using your catheter, reach out to your healthcare provider.
How to Use a Catheter: The Basics
Step 1: Collect Your Supplies. The first step in self-catheterization is to check and make sure that you have all of the supplies you need before getting started. These supplies could include the catheter, moist towelettes, a dry towel, soap and water, a water soluble lubricant, and a drainage receptacle (if you are not using a closed system catheter).
Step 2: Wash Your Hands. It is crucial to keep a clean environment when inserting a catheter to prevent urinary tract infections. Ensure your hands are clean by washing them with soap and water or wipe them with a moist towelette.
Step 3: Stop and Check Your Catheter. Before you use your catheter, make sure that the packaging has not been previously opened or damaged. If it has, discard the catheter and grab a new sterile catheter.
Step 4: Self-Catheterization. Put yourself in a comfortable position, clean yourself with a moist towelette, and prepare your catheter. If you have an uncoated catheter, apply a water soluble lubricant. Slowly insert the catheter into the urethra until urine begins to flow freely. Insertion may be slightly uncomfortable but should never be painful. For more detailed instructions on self-catheterization, visit our pages specifically for male and female catheter users or view our video resources.
Step 5: Ensure Your Bladder is Empty. When urine has stopped flowing, slowly pull the catheter out.
Step 6: Clean Up. Discard your used catheter and any additional supplies in a proper wastebasket and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
How to Receive Catheters Through Insurance
Finding out what catheters and additional supplies are covered under your insurance policy is simple!
To get started:
- Provide your insurance information in our form or give us a call at 844-276-5588.
- We'll verify your coverage and submit all required paperwork on your behalf.
- We'll provide you with a curated selection of supplies covered by your insurance.
That's it! Your supplies will ship to your home each month as allowed by your insurance policy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I forget to cath?
Catheterize immediately and continue at regular intervals as instructed by your doctor.
What are catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs)?
CAUTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract via the catheter and grow, causing an infection. You can prevent CAUTIs by only using each catheter once, leaving catheters inserted for only a short time, and making sure that the catheter is sterile before inserting it into your urethra. To maintain sterilization, make sure your catheter does not touch anything after it is opened.
Catheterization is painful. What should I do?
If you experience pain using your catheter, stop and contact your doctor immediately.
How much do catheter supplies cost?
The cost of your catheters will depend on your insurance plan. We’ll reach out to your insurance company to verify your coverage and work with your doctor to take care of all the paperwork. If you ever have questions about your policy, give us a call or send us an email, and we’ll be happy to assist you.
For more answers, visit our FAQ page.