Your Catheter Basics

What is a catheter?

A catheter is a soft, hollow, and flexible tube that is inserted into your bladder to allow urine to exit the body. It allows you to empty your bladder if you have bladder problems or any nerve damage that affects your ability to pee. Catheters are generally used for:

  • After bladder, bowel, or urinary tract surgery
  • To deliver medicine directly into the bladder, e.g. chemotherapy for bladder cancer
  • Medical conditions like MS, a stroke, diabetes, or spinal cord injuries
  • To drain the bladder during childbirth with an epidural anaesthetic
  • Obstruction of the urethra, for example due to prostate enlargement
  • To give the bladder a rest following an episode of urinary retention
  • To monitor the output after pelvic surgery, e.g. hip, bladder, bowel, or urinary tract surgery

Different Types of Catheters

Indwelling Catheter

An indwelling catheter is designed to remain inside the bladder for a longer period of time and is usually changed every 4 to 8 weeks. The catheter can either be inserted through the urethra – a urethral catheter  – or through the stomach – a suprapubic catheter. To keep it from sliding out after insertion, a tiny balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated with water. When the catheter needs to be removed, the balloon will have to be deflated first in order to avoid serious damage and injury.


Intermittent Catheter

An intermittent catheter is inserted into the urethra on demand to empty your bladder and then removed again once your bladder is empty. If you are using an intermittent catheter you will be taught to catheterise yourself. Don’t worry though, it’s quite a straightforward technique that can be performed by most people fairly easily. Even children as young as seven or eight years old can be taught how to catheterise! There are also aids out there that help people with reduced hand function to catheterise themselves. Please speak to your nurse or doctor to make sure an intermittent catheter is suitable for you.

Are you feeling nervous about intermittent catheterisation? Then our knowledgeable customer care team are more than happy to talk through any of your worries with you!

Urinary Sheath

A urinary sheath is a condom catheter that is placed outside the body with no need for an insertion of any kind. The device looks a little bit like a condom and covers the penis head from which a tube can lead to a drainage bag. This solution is generally more comfortable and, as it stays outside the body, carries a lower risk of infection compared to an indwelling or intermittent catheter. Usually, a urinary sheath needs to be changed daily. Some options on the market are designed for longer use, which can be beneficial as it limits the risk of skin irritation. Please speak to your nurse or doctor to ensure that a urinary sheath is suitable for you.

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