Unless you need to start using a catheter, it is unlikely that you would know much about it. And 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 body. Catheters are referred to as medical device, and are prescribed by doctors.
Why is it needed?
A urinary catheter is used to drain the urinary bladder when it cannot be emptied normally. This process is called catheterization and can be necessary after a surgery or during hospitalization.
It is also used as a daily habit for many people with a dysfunctional bladder caused by another diagnosis, like a spinal cord injury, spina bifida, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, diabetes, stroke or incontinence.
The different types of urinary catheters
There are a few different types of urinary catheters.
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 stomach 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 or every second month.
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 catheterize 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 catheterize, and by using aids, people with reduced hand function can practice it as well.
Catheterization 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 make insertion and withdrawal easy.
Which catheter to use?
Intermittent catheterization (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, minimizing common risks such as urinary tract infections (UTI's), strictures, bladder stone complications and upper urinary tract deterioration.
Intermittent catheterization is closest to natural urination, and gives the user control and freedom. For short-term users, intermittent catheterization 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.