Catheter Types and There Use


Catheters are small tubes designed for insertion into the bladder to drain urine when patients are unable to naturally. They are made using various materials and can safely remain inserted for weeks. A balloon-like device holds the catheter in position in the bladder and is deflated before removal of the catheter is attempted. Patients are often nervous when fitting and wearing a catheter, they are very common and professional help is always on hand should you have any issues.

Types of catheter and usage instructions
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People typically urinate up to 10 times per day  and expel up to 1.5 litres of urine. Failure to empty your bladder can lead to potentially life-changing conditions such as bladder over-distension, incontinence, kidney pressure, life-threatening infection and serious skin issues. Additonally, Catheters are typically coated in antibiotics and are used to accurately assess a patient’s condition as well as drain the bladder.

Device requirements

Patients undergoing treatment for diseases such as BPH, prostate cancer or prostatitis may temporarily have the natural function of their lower urinary tract affected and will often require the use of a catheter. The bladder and urethra work in harmony with one another, contracting, relaxing and responding to fluctuations of the bladder; disruption to this delicate system could also lead to the inability of fully emptying the bladder.

Types of catheter

Catheters are specifically designed for either single, short-term intermittent use via the urethra or for continual bladder drainage. Indwelling long-term catheters can be used for more than 30 days. To release the urine drained, catheters incorporate an adjustable valve which then expels the urine in to a transparent drainage bag.

Short-term use

Short-term catheter use is common among patients currently receiving surgery, or where urethral blockages have occurred such as occurs in patient diagnosed with BPH/ enlarged prostate. A catheter may also be used short-term to monitor bladder fluctuation and pressure and to administer therapeutic medicines.

Long-term use

Long-term catheter use increases the risk of urinary tract infections and other catheter-specific issues and is only considered when all other options have proven unviable. Long-term use does provide a viable solution for those with chronic debilitating diseases, injured spinal cords, intractable urinary incontinence, MS and patients with restricted ability to use a toilet or unfit for surgery.

Alternative suprapubic catheters

A short surgical procedure to form a suprapubic catheter may be advised if suitable for your specific circumstances. The procedure is typically done under local anesthetic and effectively creates a track from the lower abdomen to the bladder.

This method is helpful when patients wish to maintain their usual sexual activity and minimises infections or complications associated with urethral  complications or injuries. When patients meet certain conditions suprapubic catheters are a preferable method of long-term urine drainage.

Independent use

Despite the many patients who rely on long-term catheters, intermittent self-catheterisation or clean intermittent self-catheterisation is now commonly done by patients, on a daily basis in their own homes. Urethral catheterisation is the preferred method of achieving short-term urine drainage.

Device maintenance

Regular catheter maintenance reduces the risk of infection. Short-term users must observe good personal care, relax, prepare and use their catheter specifically as instructed by their doctor. Long-term users must do the same and take all precautions to avoid constipation by drinking regularly and eating a high-fibre diet. A regime of cleaning the catheter daily and using all the support straps when emptying their drainage bag should be followed exactly as instructed.

Reference: Alberta Health Services, Fitting a straight catheter, 29 October 2020

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