What are Catheters?

A catheter is a piece of medical equipment made of components like silicone, latex & PVC, among other things. The primary function of this device is administrating or draining fluids/gas from different body cavities and is generally used for cardiovascular, urological, neurovascular, gastrointestinal, or ophthalmic surgical/non-surgical procedures.

What are catheters used for:

Catheters are used if routine drainage/administration is not possible (for example blocked bladder or excessive air trapped in the lungs). A urinary catheter drains urine from the bladder. Patients suffering from urinary incontinence or leakage or urinary retention when they are not able to urinate due to obstruction of the urethra, use catheters. The usage of the urological catheter is common in the later stages of dementia and post prostate surgery.

How many types of urological catheters are there?

Urological Catheters are available in three variations – Indwelling (urethral or suprapubic catheters), External (condom catheters), and Short-Term (intermittent catheters); urological catheters are used in severe cases of urinary retention (incapability of emptying the bladder voluntarily); the specifications of the varieties are as listed:

Indwelling Catheters:

Indwelling or Foley Catheters are used for mid to long-term insertions and are usually administered through the urethra and stays planted inside the bladder. The variation of Indwelling Catheters that are inserted through a hole in the abdomen is called Suprapubic Catheters. These devices come with a catheter bag and an attached apparatus that is somewhat like a water-filled balloon, the deflation of which signifies that the catheter needs to be removed from the patient.

External Catheters:

External or Condom Catheters are used for patients who have no urinary retention or urinary obstruction issues but cannot control urination. They are suitable for short term usage while suffering from mobility issues or in cases like dementia. It consists of a device like a condom that stays attached to the patient’s glans (penis-head), with a tubular connection to a catheter bag that stores the discarded urine until further sanitization.

Short-Term Catheters:

Short-Term or Intermittent Catheters are used for people requiring short-term assistance with urination, i.e., after minor surgeries or after an accident, and is named as such because they need to be removed frequently. Most of them are available in single-use versions, while the others have a multiple-use application. These are also referred to as In-and-Out Catheters by medical professionals. They are the most commonly used variety of catheters because it comes with a self-administration option and usually consists of disposable catheter supplies. People suffering from chronic urinary retention are especially benefitted from this catheterization procedure.

What is a Touch-Free (or No-Touch) Catheter?

Touch-Free is a variety of Intermittent (Short-Term) Catheter (available in lubricated and non-lubricated versions) that prevents the user from directly touching the insertion parts of the device before administering it internally. Compared to the other intermittent catheters available in the market, these come pre-sterilized with detailed instructions or attached how to-s and can be used for a multitude of purposes like when no restroom is accessible nearby during a long trip or bed rest. The specialty of a No-Touch Catheter is that unlike any other urological catheters, these come in an all-in-one package (Closed System). All the parts are pre-assembled and sterilized like gloves, catheter bags, straight, pre-lubricated catheter or hydrophilic catheter system, and a pre-lubricated introducer that allows the catheter pipe to be inserted without direct contact to the skin.

What are the benefits of using a No-Touch Catheter?

The primary reason behind the sudden rise in the demand for No-Touch Catheters is the safety hack that arrives with it. The pre-assembled and sterilized system completely shuts down the chances of contracting any Urinary Tract Infections or Urinary Catheter infection/injuries, or other major complications like haematuria. The protective slip provides extra ease in insertion and removal, with minimal time-consumption, lesser mess, and a hassle-free procedure.

Why should I choose Touch-free Catheters over Regular Catheters?

No-touch intermittent catheters replicate the action of filling and emptying the bladder by itself besides eliminating any chances of developing diseases caused by unsanitary practices like touching the catheter tube without gloves or proper sterilization. Closed system or touch-free catheters is easier to use, self-administered, and is perfectly suitable for people from every age or gender. No-touch catheters are also known to cause little to no irritation while insertion, hence reducing the chances of injuries, as compared to stiff, unprotected regular catheters, which require to be sterilized and cleaned daily. Intermittent catheters are available in single pack use only.

Tips for First-Time Catheter Users

The whole procedure can seem a bit complicated at first, but you will gradually get better at it, given that you have well-functioned hand movements. You must keep your regular tea/coffee and other beverage intakes in check, as these can have a direct effect on your bladder and lead to frequent urination, as opposed to drinking the right amount of water regularly.

Whether you are comfortable using a straight tip catheter or Coudé-tipped or Tiemann (curved) depends on the structure of the urethra. All types of catheters other than hydrophilic ones need lubrication. Always remember to keep a water-based lubricant gel handy in case of using non-hydrophilic catheter tubes. The intermittent hydrophilic catheters have a no-touch handling sleeve to let the user insert the catheter without touching the tube itself. Keep towelettes, and clean flannel along with some soap for regular cleansing, and a measuring container if it makes you handle the deposit bag a bit easier. If you feel there’s still urine left in your bladder, don’t sweat about it – this is known as PVR or Post Void Residual, and it happens during voluntary urine disposal too.

Intermittent catheters should be changed every 4 to 6 hours. You should be very careful to not come in touch with an unclean surface, especially near your intimate area. It is advised to not experiment with the closed catheter system. You can go through severe complications if you contract a Urinary tract infection or any other kind of infection, which can lead to continuous leakage, bleeding, and internal fluid accumulation. You should always be careful not to let your catheter bag store more than 500 ml of urine.

Make sure to visit your doctor in case of going through a long-term catheterization period and have him/her help you out during the initial period to check on any existing unseen discomfort/conditions related to self-catheterization.

Here’s an assortment of urological catheter supplies to make that hunt a bit easier for you – stay healthy, stay positive – stay hassle-free throughout your busy days!