Choosing the Right Urinary Catheter



Urinary Catheters are hollow tubes that drain urine from the bladder. These tubes can be made of rubber, silicone, or plastic. A catheter may be necessary if you have problems emptying your bladder completely. The inability to empty your bladder can cause urine to back up into the kidneys and cause pressure that may result in kidney damage or kidney failure. Medical conditions that may require the use of a catheter include:

  • Spinal cord injury 
  • Neurogenic bladder
  • Kidney Problems 
  • Enlarged prostate blocking the flow of urine
  • Cancer
  • Surgery

With several types of catheters on the market, it can be hard to decide which is the best option for your medical condition. We will explain the options available and discuss the reasons why the type of catheter may be helpful in your situation. 

Preventing Urinary Catheter Complications

Clean Practice 

One of the most common complications from urinary catheterization is infection. Urinary tract infections can be prevented by washing your hands with soap and warm water before handling the catheter. Wipes used to clean the surface should be used only once. Additionally, used catheters should be thrown away and not reused.  


Using a water-based lubricant on your catheter before insertion can prevent pain and discomfort during insertion and removal of the catheter. Lubrication also helps to prevent trauma to the urethral opening.

Use the correct catheter

Using the correct catheter type and size for your body is important to ensure your bladder is completely emptied and to reduce trauma and discomfort from catheterization. If you are experiencing pain, discomfort, or leakage, speak to your physician as your catheter may not be correctly sized.  

Catheter Types

Intermittent Catheters

Intermittent catheters are designed to be inserted, drain the bladder, and then be removed. These catheters are single-use, and are designed to be self-inserted. There are several different styles and setups for intermittent catheters that have varying benefits.

Straight Catheters


Straight catheters are the most common type of intermittent catheter. They are temporary tubes with a small hole (often called “eyelets”) at the tip of the catheter to allow urine to pass. Straight catheters are typically inserted through the urethra to the bladder for the immediate release of urine. After the urine is drained completely, the catheter is removed. Intermittent catheterization is performed at specific intervals during the day, determined by your health care professional. Straight catheters are a good choice for those who need to empty their bladder every few hours, can make it to a restroom, and do not require continuous drainage. Intermittent catheters typically require lubrication to ease the discomfort of insertion. Straight catheters are individually wrapped under sterile conditions to decrease the risk of infection. Straight catheters should be used once and discarded. 

Pre-lubricated Catheters

Catheters require lubrication before they are inserted to help them slide easily into the urethra without creating friction between the catheter and the urethra. This helps to reduce discomfort and makes insertion easier. Pre-lubricated catheters come with lubrication already applied to the outside of the catheter. This makes it more convenient to use the catheter and eliminates the work of having to apply the lubrication yourself. If a catheter is not pre-lubricated, it may come with a packet of lubrication that can be applied, or lubrication may need to be obtained separately.

Hydrophilic Catheter 

A hydrophilic catheter is type of straight catheter coated with a substance that becomes slick and slippery when it comes into contact with water. Some brands of hydrophilic catheters require you to break a blister pack that activates the hydrophilic coating before opening the catheter packaging, while other brands activate the solution when the packaging is opened. Hydrophilic catheters are a good option for those with pain or discomfort due to friction during the insertion or removal of the catheter. It also helps to reduce the trauma to the urinary opening. 

Female Catheters

Female catheters are a type of straight catheters that are 5-8 inches in length, as compared to the standard 16-inch length of most catheters. Female urethras are shorter compared to the male’s urethra, which gives women the option for a shorter catheter length. Female catheters come in a variety of choices, including hydrophilic and coudé. Women are certainly allowed to use the standard 16-inch catheter if they prefer.    

Closed System Catheter 

Closed system catheters are equipped with a pre-lubricated straight catheter attached to a urine collection bag. The catheter comes in a sheath that allows the user to empty the bladder into a collection bag without directly touching the catheter, thus helping to reduce infection. This catheter is ideal for those with limited mobility or with problems with dexterity. Some people use this type of catheter when they are traveling or do not have direct access to a toilet.  

Compact Catheters 

Compact catheters are intermittent catheters in smaller, discreet packaging. Some compact catheters are small enough to resemble the appearance of a marker or fit in the palm of your hand as you go to the bathroom. These catheters can be packed in a backpack, makeup bag, or in a briefcase without the bulk of traditional catheters. Compact catheters are ideal for travel or when you are on the go.   

Coudé Catheters

image3.pngCoudé catheters are catheters with an angled or curved tip. They are sometimes called bent tip catheters. These catheters are recommended by health care providers for those with narrow ureteral openings or those who have problems passing a straight catheter due to an enlarged prostate or scar tissues, causing a blockage. Coudé catheters come in different angles and lengths. These catheters require lubrication before insertion. Coudé tip style catheters may be used both as intermittent catheters and indwelling catheters.

Indwelling Catheters


Indwelling catheters are designed to be used when you need continuous drainage for a certain period of time. These catheters often come with a balloon toward the tip of the insertion site that is inflated once it has been inserted to keep it in your bladder. The catheter is then connected to a drainage bag that collects the urine. Extension tubing can be used to extend the length of tubing between the catheter and the bag, allowing more freedom of movement without uncomfortable pulling. Adaptors may be needed to attach the extension tubing onto the catheter. Indwelling catheters are useful for those who intermittent cath during the day and do not want to intermittent cath in the middle of the night. Sometimes health care providers will request the placement of an indwelling catheter for a period of time if there is a concern of a urinary tract infection. Indwelling catheters can be safely left in place for several days with clean hygiene.

External Catheter

Also called a "condom cath," external catheters are rubber sheath catheters that are placed over the penis to drain urine. The sheath is directly connected to a urine collection system. Some people prefer external catheters because it does not require a tube entering the urethra. This type of catheter is an option to consider for men with urinary incontinence. External catheters are not ideal for those with enlarged prostate glands or urinary obstruction. 

Here at Tomorrow Health, we believe that choosing the correct urinary catheter should not be stressful! Tomorrow Health has a variety of catheter options and supplies for you to fit your needs. We are here to supply your needs for everyday catheter care and provide safe catheter care options when you are away from home.

Was this article helpful?
1 out of 1 found this helpful



Please sign in to leave a comment.