Choosing Catheters: Be Educated

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For many people the use of catheters is a necessity. A urinary catheter is a tube system that is inserted into the body (usually through the urethra) to collect urine from the bladder. Your doctor or healthcare provider may determine the use of a catheter is recommended on a short/long term basis. There are numerous variations of catheters (size, material, and type), so it’s important to know the differences in order to choose the right one for your situation.

Reasons for Catheters

The need for a catheter can be caused by several factors. Incontinence (leakage of urine or the inability to control it) or urinary retention (the inability to completely empty the bladder) are leading causes of catheter use. Also, surgery such as prostate or gynecological can facilitate the need. Other medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, dementia, or spinal cord injury can lead to the use of these aids.

Types of Catheters

Once your healthcare professional has determined the need for a catheter, choosing the right one for you is the next step. The choice of a catheter may be dictated by your medical condition and/or lifestyle. They are designed with different numbers of eyes (openings), not to mention different styles of eyes (round or coude). The majority of catheters fall into three categories (according to Web standard catheters, indwelling Foley catheters, and condom catheters. Another type is the suprapubic catheter, which is installed through the abdomen into the bladder via minor surgery. Since every patient’s needs are different, understanding the differences in each is important.

Standard Catheters

These catheters are sterile hollow tubes with an eyelid at the end that is inserted through the urethra into the bladder, allowing the urine to drain. They are used for intermittent self catheterization. They may consist of a single prepackaged sterile tube that may be self lubricated or may require lubrication. Companies such as Bard, Rusch, Coloplast, and Hollister all offer these in different sizes and variations. Another variation is the closed system intermittent catheter. These incorporate a self lubricating sterile tube that empties into a closed bag. While many of these are designed for both men and women, some are specifically designed for pediatric patients and women only.

Indwelling Foley Catheter

This type of catheter is used on a more permanent basis. A Foley catheter is inserted into the bladder and is kept in place by inflating a balloon with sterile water. The inflated balloon prevents the catheter from slipping out. The urine drains into a collection bag that can be attached to the leg, wheelchair, or bed/chair. The manufacturer Bard produces several types of Foley catheters in different sizes and with different sized balloons so users can find the right fit for them. The development of urinary tract infections (UTIs) is more frequent with Foley catheters down with intermittent catheters since they are in place longer.

Condom Catheters

These are special condoms that fit over the penis and are attached to a tube that collects urine. Obviously, these are designed for men only and are for short-term use only. Long-term use increases the risk of urinary tract infections, damage to the penis from friction with the condom, and urethral blockage. Many companies such as Coloplast, Rusch, Cook, and Rochester all offer condom catheters to men so users can choose which one best fits their needs.

Catheter Support

There are 2 basic kinds of supports for the catheter end so that does not tug out of your body. One sticks to your leg and the other is a strap that goes around your leg. The stick to your leg type does come loose after exposure to water after about 2 weeks if it is the kind that says it can be removed by alcohol. The strap type is not subject to this limitation but does not stay in place as well if you are active. It can be removed while you shower and the bag held in place using a compression bandage.

Catheter Holder

A catheter holder has a pad of medical-grade adhesive material having one surface for attachment to the skin of a wearer, and a pair of tapes secured to and extending from the other surface of the pad. A multiple-use adhesive is placed on a surface of at least one tape which surface faces generally towards the other tape. With such an arrangement, the two tapes can be stuck together to enclose the catheter and at the same time the tape carrying the adhesive sticks to the adjacent wall of the catheter so preventing longitudinal movement of the catheter relative to the pad.

Catheter strap and Tube Holder holds catheter or extension tubing to leg with Velcro fasteners.

Catheter Stabilizer helps to prevent infection by reducing unscheduled reinsertions and postoperative complications. It helps eliminate kinking and increases patient comfort.

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and Lubricant

The introduction of a foreign object (catheter tube) into a sterile environment like the urethra and bladder can lead to an increase in UTIs. When using any catheter, care must be taken to create a clean if not sterile condition. Some catheters are packed in sterile saline solutions or come with swabs coated in antibacterial solutions. When lubricating catheters, a sterile surgical lubricant is best and should be applied with sterile gloves.



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