Different Types of Urinary Catheters

Different Ways to Catheterise

Unless you need to start using a catheter, it is unlikely that you would know much about it. We know that at first it seems scary, difficult and intimidating, but as soon as you learn the technique, it will become a habit like any other daily routine.

What is a Catheter?

A catheter is a thin tube often made of soft plastic material that can be inserted into the bladder via the urethra. Catheters are referred to as a medical device and are prescribed by health care professionals.

Why is it Needed?

A urinary catheter is used to drain the urinary bladder when it cannot empty normally. This process is called catheterisation and can be necessary after several different occasions. Most commonly it will be after surgery or during hospitalisation. Many people will use catheters daily for management of dysfunctional bladder caused by another diagnosis, like a spinal cord injury, spina bifida, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, diabetes, stroke or pelvic floor dysfunction (e.g. women after menopause with incontinence).

There are a few different types of urinary catheters and the decision about which one to choose will determine whether outcomes for the patient are successful .

Indwelling Catheter

An indwelling catheter is a catheter that stays inside the body for a longer period, and there are two types. A urethral indwelling catheter is a catheter inserted through the urethra into the bladder, while a suprapubic indwelling catheter is inserted through the abdomen directly into the bladder. Indwelling catheters are inserted by healthcare professionals and left inside the body for as long as they are needed. For long-term use they are often changed every month or every second month. Having something inside the body for this amount of time increases the risk of infection.

Intermittent Catheters

An intermittent catheter is inserted into the urethra on demand to empty the bladder, and then removed again as soon as the bladder is empty. Users are taught how to catheterise themselves, and it is a straightforward technique that can be performed by most people.

Even children as young as seven or eight years old can be taught how to catheterise themselves, and by using aids, people with reduced hand function can practice it as well.

Catheterisation is undertaken roughly at the same intervals as you would normally go to the toilet, about 4-6 times a day.

Non-hydrophilic Catheters vs Hydrophilic Catheters

There are two major types of intermittent urinary catheters: Non-hydrophilic catheters, which are uncoated catheters, and hydrophilic intermittent catheters which are coated with a slippery surface to maintain low friction during both insertion and withdrawal, therefore helping avoid complications.

Which Catheter Should I Use?

Intermittent catheterisation (IC) is the preferable method to empty the bladder when you can’t urinate naturally. It is safe in the short, mid and long-term, minimising common risks such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), strictures, bladder stone complications and upper urinary tract deterioration.

Intermittent catheterisation is closest to natural urination, and gives the user control and freedom. For short-term users, intermittent catheterisation gives a faster recovery and return to normal voiding (emptying of the bladder) after surgery.

Of the different types of intermittent catheters, evidence shows that hydrophilic single use catheters are best at reducing the risk of complications.

How to Choose the Right Catheter

When you're new to catheterisation, it makes sense to know what makes one catheter more right for you than another. Here we explore how to choose the right catheter for you.

Intermittent Catheterisation (IC)

Intermittent Catheterisation (IC) is the next best way to urinate, the way that mostly mimics the natural way of urinating. In this section you can watch animations to understand the whole procedure of IC, download catheterisation instructions and more.