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About Catheters: Urine Catheter Information

At FreedoMed, we want to give you all the catheter information you need to be knowledgeable about catheters and feel confident using them.

You may also need a urine catheter for a period of time following certain types of surgery. In addition, people who have dementia or are bedridden and cannot care of themselves often need to be catheterized.

Male catheters and female catheters are available in many lengths and widths. The French catheter scale is used to indicate the diameter of the catheter. A urine catheter may be made with several different materials, including latex, silicone or Teflon. Catheters may have a straight tip or Coude tip (for men), which has a slight bend in the insertion tip.

About Catheters: Types of Urine Catheters

If you don’t know a lot about catheters, learning the variations and the differences between them is a great start. There are a number of types of urine catheters that can be used for urinary problems, including intermittent (short-term) catheters, indwelling catheters (commonly known as Foley catheters), suprapubic catheters and external catheters (commonly known as condom catheters).

Intermittent Catheters

Intermittent catheters are typically single-use urinary catheters. That is, you use it to urinate once then you dispose of it. Using an intermittent catheter may be referred to as self-catheterization, because you insert the catheter into the bladder yourself by threading it through the urethra. With a regular intermittent catheter, you urinate in the toilet rather than into a collection bag. Since intermittent catheters do not remain in the body, you are less likely to develop urinary tract infections.

Intermittent catheters are also available as closed system catheters. This type of catheter is pre-lubricated and has an introducer tip that prevents bacteria from entering the catheter. The urine catheter is enclosed in a sleeve or bag so your hands do not touch it and introduce bacteria. Unlike a regular intermittent catheter, a closed system catheter comes with a drainage bag to collect urine.

Indwelling Catheters

Indwelling catheters are for long-term use to manage bladder problems such as urinary incontinence or urinary retention. One important thing to note about catheters is some require a doctor for insertion, as is the case with this variety. There are two types of indwelling catheters: Foley catheters and suprapubic catheters.

A Foley catheter, also called a balloon catheter, is a flexible tube with a balloon on the end that keeps it in place within the bladder. Foley catheters are inserted into the bladder through the urethra.

A suprapubic catheter is inserted into the bladder through a small incision in the abdomen just above the pubic area. Suprapubic catheters may be a better choice for long-term use, as they are less likely to become infected and do not damage the urethra.

External Condom Catheters

External catheters for men are known as condom catheters or Texas catheters. This type of male catheter fits snugly over the penis and has a tube attached that drains urine into a collection bag worn on the leg or hung on the side of the bed. Since condom catheters are worn over the penis, they do not damage the urethra. A health concern about catheters is hurting the urethra, so this is a good option for many people.

Condom catheters are commonly used in nursing homes on elderly patients with dementia. To prevent infection, external catheters should be changed each day. However, some condom catheters are reusable, which is a popular choice among men who experience urinary incontinence after prostate surgery.

About Catheters: Catheter Accessories

Another useful fact about catheters is that they require a number of accessories. Most catheters come with a drainage bag that collects the urine, with the exception of regular intermittent catheters. During the day you will use a disposable or reusable leg bag, which attaches to your leg beneath pants or dresses. At night, you will use an overnight drain bag that hangs from your bed or sits on the floor. Leg bags are smaller than overnight drain bags. Collection bags must always be below the bladder so urine does not drain back into the bladder and cause infection.

You will also need sterile gloves for handling the catheter. Other catheter accessories include leg straps, extension tubes, antiseptic Benzalkonium (BZK) wipes and a waterproof underpad.

About Catheters: How-To

The most common questions people have about catheters deal with the “how” – and we’ll do our best to answer some of those questions.

How to Care for an Indwelling Catheter

If you want to know more about catheters, proper care is key! To clean an indwelling Foley catheter, use soap and water to cleanse the area around the urethra where the catheter exits the body, as well as the catheter itself. You should do this at least once a day. To prevent infection, you should also clean the area after all bowel movements.

To care for a suprapubic catheter, use soap and water to clean the opening in your abdomen and catheter tubing daily. When the area is dry, cover it with gauze.

To prevent urine from flowing back into your bladder, be sure to keep the urine collection bag at or below the level of your bladder and do not let the tubing kink up.

Drink 8 to 12 glasses of water, juice or milk each day, and try to avoid caffeine.

How to Drain Urine Collection Bags

As we mentioned earlier about catheters, you might need to use a urine collection bag. Leg bags and overnight bags should not be allowed to become full. Overnight bags should be emptied 2 to 3 times per day, while leg bags should be emptied when they are about half full, or every four to eight hours.

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Open the spout at the bottom of the collection bag. Empty the bag directly into the toilet (or collection container if your doctor wants you to measure your output). Do not let the spout touch the floor, toilet or container you are emptying it into.
  3. When the bag is empty, clean the end of the spout with gauze or a cotton ball saturated with rubbing alcohol, then close the spout. Make sure it is closed tightly.
  4. Wash your hands again.

How to Clean Urine Collection Bags

If you use a reusable leg bag or overnight bag, you should clean the bags once a day using bleach or white distilled vinegar and water.

  • If using bleach, mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water (1 tablespoon bleach to 5 ounces of water).
  • If using vinegar, mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water (½ cup vinegar to 1½ cup water).
  • Pour into the drainage bag and tubing, agitate for 30 seconds, then allow to air dry.

How to Change Urine Collection Bags

If you use a reusable drainage bag, you should change it at least monthly, or when you notice any clouding, discoloration or odor.

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Disconnect the catheter from the collection bag tubing. Be careful not to touch the end of the catheter or tubing with your hands.
  3. Clean the ends of the catheter, tubing and tubing end of the replacement bag with gauze or a cotton ball saturated with rubbing alcohol.
  4. Connect the replacement bag tubing to the catheter. Make sure it fits snugly to prevent leaks.
  5. Clean the connection site again with alcohol.
  6. Wash your hands again.

About Catheters: Get Your Catheter Supply from FreedoMed

Now that you know more about catheters, hopefully you'll feel more comfortable using them. But the most important thing to know about catheters: you can get free urine catheter supplies from FreedoMed! If you're on Medicare, you could be eligible for urine catheter coverage, so you'll receive free catheter supplies. Contact us to learn more about catheters and to see if you qualify for free urine catheters!

*Co-payments, deductibles and some restrictions apply.