What Are Catheters Used For?

Catheters for Urinary TreatmentJust Exactly what is a Catheter?

A medical catheter is a tube inserted into a body cavity. Catheters provide drainage, injection of fluids, or access by instruments. Catheterization is the insertion of a catheter. Generally, the catheter is a thin, flexible tube. However, it should be noted that some catheters are larger and solid. It’s possible that a catheter will be left in the body in which case it is called an indwelling catheter.

Some Catheter Uses:

  1. Draining urine from the bladder
  2. Drainage of urine from a kidney
  3. Coloplast Conveen Intermittent Catheter

  4. Drainage of fluids such as an abdominal abscess
  5. Injecting fluids such as intravenous feeding
  6. Angioplasty and Angiography use a catheter

Doctors and especially surgeons use catheters in a variety of situations and for a variety of purposes. However, the one we most often think of is the draining of urine from the bladder.

The tube is inserted through the penis into the urinary tract in males. In females insertion occurs into the urethral meatus. It can be complicated in females due to anatomical variations caused by age, obesity, and childbirth. It takes skill and some patience to “cath” some females.

It may be very painful; for that reason, most physicians use a topical anesthetic prior to “cathing” a patient. This is not a do-it-yourself procedure. Only trained qualified personnel and only equipment designed for the purpose should be used. However, in some cases, a physician will train a patient to do self-catheterization if there is a justifiable reason for it.

Hollister Everyday Self adhesive Catheter


The catheter was in use by 1868 when the first patent was filed. David Sheridan was responsible for inventing the modern disposable catheter, which occurred in the 1940s. Because red rubber tube catheters were being reused from patient to patient, they were spreading disease and infection, so Sheridan came up with an alternative to solve some of those problems. Now several different types of medical catheters are available for specific functions. Internal catheters include Foley Catheters, Touchless Catheters and Intermittent Catheters. Male patients usually make use of an external catheter which consist of a sheath device.


Kendall Curity Bedside Drainage Bag A catheter may be left in place for a while in which case it will be attached to a drainage bag. The purpose of this is to measure urine volume. This bag may be what is called a leg bag that is attached by elastic bands to the leg. It can even be worn throughout the day because it can be concealed under pants or a skirt. Another type of drain is a larger device that is used overnight and will hang on the bed or rest on the floor.


Today catheters are made of polymers of one kind or another. Silicone rubber latex is often used because it doesn’t react to body and medical fluids. It’s not as strong as it might be, however, and some serious complications have occurred due to a breakdown of the catheter. There have been instances where surgery has been required to remove parts of the catheter from the bladder.

The thought of having a tube inserted in a delicate part of our bodies makes us shudder a little. However, we can be thankful that the process has evolved and been refined over the years.

Vitality Medical provides discount catheters urinary supplies to hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, government agencies and homecare. A prescription from a physician is required for all internal catheter purchases. Prescriptions are not required of external catheters. Catheter supplies are shipped directly to home addresses and health care facility addresses. Vitality Medical can be reached by telephone at 800-733-4449.


3 responses to “What Are Catheters Used For?

  1. Thanks for this very informative and well researched article. It was very useful indeed.

  2. Vascular access makes chronic hemodialysis possible because it allows the care team to “access” the patient’s blood. An access can be internal (inside the body) or external (outside the body). It must:

    * Allow repeat access to the blood.
    * Handle flow rates that will ensure effective treatments.
    * Be made of materials that are not prone to causing reactions or infections.

    The three main types of access are Fistulae , Grafts , and Catheters.

    To create a Fistula, a surgeon sews an artery and vein together , most often in an arm.
    Arteries carry Oxygen-reach blood from the heart and the lungs to the rest of the body.
    The vessels selected for a fistula are large and have a good blood flow, but are deep below the skin and hard to reach with needles.
    Veins bring blood back to the heart and lungs; They are easy to reach, but too small and too slow flowing for dialysis. Linking an artery and a vein is the best of both worlds. In 4-6 weeks, high-pressure blood flow from the artery thickens the vein wall and make it dilate (enlarge) so large needles can be used. Because a fistula is below the skin and is the patient’s own tissue, it is less prone to infection and clotting than other types of access.
    A fistula can last for years-even decades- and research shows that it is the best type of access now available. New surgical techniques and ways to assess and preserve blood vessels have made fistulae an option for more patients.
    To insert a Graft , a surgeon links an artery and vein with a piece of artificial blood vessel. Like a fistula, a graft allows access to the large volume of blood needed for dialysis. Grafts are more prone to stenosis (narrowing of blood vessels) , Which can cause thrombosis (blood clots) . Grafts are also more prone to infection than fistulas, and have a shorter useful lifespan (Less than five years an average), Grafts are an option for patients who do not have blood vessels suited to create a fistula.

  3. I thank God I don’t have to use one of these things yet, but it’s comfforting to know they’re here if ever the case should arrive. Very informative.

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