A catheter is a thin, hollow piping that is used in a wide range of surgical procedures and during the treatment of diseases. Generally speaking, the catheter use will depend entirely upon the type of application that it is being employed for. The most common application of a catheter is for urinary infections and its complications, where a urinary catheter tube is used to drain urine from the bladder.
You will need a catheter if you have leakage (urinary incontinence), are not able to urinate (urinary retention), have prostate issues, or require surgery to treat your urinary complications. For such purposes, clean intermittent catheterization is the most commonly used technique.
Catheter Use at Home
When a catheter is used, the urine is drained into a container or a toilet. Consult with a physician or healthcare provider regarding the safe and efficient use of the catheter. In some cases, your family members or others around you should be able to help you with the catheter use.
Catheters can often be bought at medical supply stores, and are also available on our website. Depending on the nature of use, you will be prescribed a different type of catheter, with complimentary supplies like lubricant and towelettes. Once you have learned how to empty the bladder with the catheter, you should be able to use it effectively.
NOTE: Never substitute medical grade lubricant with petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline!
How does a Catheter Work
A catheter is a flexible rubber or silicone tube that is used to transmit any fluids into or drain any fluids out of the body. The tube is attached to your body as a result of a minor surgical procedure or attached to a rubber sheath placed around a body part (e.g. condom catheters).
There are various applications for catheters. They can be used to administer a fluid medicine into the human body or to drain our urine from the bladder. However, catheters are widely used for the latter – removing urine from the human body. Here’s a look at how a catheter works:
Intermittent Urinary Catheters
In most of the cases, an intermittent urinary catheter is recommended. Such catheters are usually prescribed by a physician and administered by a nurse. These can be inserted more than once a day and long enough for you to drain your bladder, after which, they can be removed. The process of applying an intermittent catheter on your own is called Clean Intermittent Self-Catheterization (CISC).
The catheter is inserted into your bladder through the urethra (the natural pathway for urine outflow in your body). Typically the sterile catheter is pre-lubricated. This makes it easy to apply and remove the catheter, as well as reduce friction and discomfort while keeping the inner walls of your urethra safe from damage.
At one end, the catheter is open-ended to allow urine to drain into the toilet or collect inside a drainage bag. The other end of the same catheter goes through your urethra into your bladder to the point from where urine starts to flow. After every few days, the catheter should be removed and replaced.
An external catheter is also known as a condom or Texas catheter. This consists of a rubber condom-like sheath connected to a small urine bag with the help of a tube. Urine easily drains from the urinary organ into the urine bag via the condom tube. These catheters are economical and easy to apply, without any cut or insertion in the body. However, they are prone to bacteria and infections and should be replaced regularly. In addition, an external catheter should not be used if the skin of the urinary organ is reddened, damaged, bruised, extra sensitive or cut.
How to Insert a Catheter
A catheter is a medical device that consists of a long and thin tube which can easily be fitted inside the body for a variety of uses. Catheters are widely used in administering a medicine and removing any fluid from the body. They are also used to monitor intracranial pressure. Here is detailed guide on how to insert a catheter:
Stage 1: Preparing to Insert a Cather
Urinary catheters (intermittent and indwelling) are normally prescribed by a medical practitioner and administered by a healthcare expert. Since the catheter tube is inserted into the bladder to help drain our urine, it is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable. The best thing to do is to educate them on the entire procedure and reassure them that it will be painless. Here are a few more things one needs to do:
Ensure that the patient is lying down: For pain-free insertion, the patient must be lying down with his or her legs stretched out and feet together. The supine position is the best. This helps in relaxing the urethra muscles and ensuring smooth catheter insertion
Use Sterile Gloves: Gloves are extensively used by healthcare personnel to protect themselves and their patients during all medical procedures. Sterile gloves prevent bacteria from entering the urethra during catheter application
Sterilize the Genital Area: To ensure maximum safety, it is best to scrub a patient’s genital area using disinfectant-soaked cotton swabs. Sterile water or alcohol helps in removing any debris or surface bacteria when inserting a catheter.
Stage 2: Inserting a Catheter
Here is a five-step guide for the catheter insertion procedure:
You will need to apply a generous amount of lubrication onto the distal portion of the catheter (2cm-5cm portion at the tip). If you are using a balloon catheter, you need to lubricate the balloon portion as well
If the patient is female, you will need to hold the labia open and gently insert the tip of the catheter into the urethra, via the urethral opening. Similarly, if the patient is male, you will need to gently pull the penis upwards – perpendicular to the body before inserting the catheter.
Feed the length of the catheter gently into the urethra and deep into the bladder. As soon as the urine begins to flow, continue pushing the catheter into the bladder to make sure that it is against the neck of the bladder.
If you are using a balloon catheter, you need to use a water-filled syringe to inflate the balloon. This balloon acts as an anchor so that the catheter stays in place when the patient is moving around. As the balloon inflates, you will need to pull it gently to ensure that the catheter is placed correctly against the neck of the bladder.
The other end of the sterile catheter tube needs to be connected to an external catheter bag (urine bag). This bag should be applied securely around the patient’s leg with the help of adhesives. Urine flows out of the bladder into the urinary bag with the help of gravity. So make sure that the catheter bag is placed beneath the bladder to ensure smooth flow.
During chemotherapy or radiotherapy
Catheterization is a relatively simple and straightforward procedure. Since a Foley catheter needs to be inserted into the main body cavity, it should be administered by a licensed nurse or a physician.
The process begins with basic hygiene. Hands should be thoroughly washed with soap and warm water, and gloves should be applied. The genital area is thoroughly cleaned and wiped with a wet tissue, followed by alcohol wipes or any other germ-killing sterile solution.
Next, the caregiver will apply a lubricant jelly around the catheter and enter it slowly and gently into the body. The catheter is then advanced into the bladder, with the balloon region inserted first. During this time, you may have to take breaths or try to urinate.
As soon as urine passes through the catheter, the balloon is fixated at the end of the catheter. This prevents it from coming out. The caregiver then proceeds to attach the open end of the catheter onto a sterile urine bag (drainage bag) or any other sterile device for collecting urine.
Caring for the Closed System
Foley catheters are designed to last. This does not, however, exempt you from taking care of your catheter system. For starters, catheters use laws of gravity to push urine down the tube into the catheter bag. You need to make sure that the collection bag is placed beneath your abdomen region.
The urine bag can also be attached to your leg, using a leg strap. This allows you to roam freely during the day, without worrying about dirtying your clothes. However, you need to build up some slack between the tube and the bag so as to prevent the structure from breaking apart, especially when you are walking around.
The urine bag needs to be emptied every 3 to 6 hours or when it is half to two-thirds full. Similarly, the catheter should be replaced at regular intervals or as per the instructions mentioned in the leaflet. It is always best to consult your doctor.