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Catheter Options for Limited Hand Dexterity

by billf May 13 2013 10:32
Speaking from experience, Bill knows what our patients are going through. He sustained a spinal cord injury in a motocross accident over 22 years ago. Read more about his story here.

Today, he's tackling the topic of catheters for those with limited hand dexterity.

Hydrophilic Catheters

Depending on your insurance coverage, you may be eligible for an intermittent catheter that's more technologically advanced than uncoated catheters you have to manually lubricate. Many advanced catheters come pre-lubricated or hydrophilic, so they don't require additional lubrication.

Hydrophilic catheters have a special coating that is activated by water. Some brands are pre-activated in their own solution and come ready to use, while others may include a sterile water packet that you can pop to let the catheter saturate in the water for a short period of time (usually no more than 30 seconds) in order to activate the hydrophilic coating.

Once activated, hydrophilic catheters are very slippery, which can make them more difficult to hold onto for some catheter-users. Some of these catheters have specialized grippers or sleeves to make it easier to grasp.

Hydrophilic catheters stay smooth and well-lubricated throughout the cathing process, which can reduce trauma and irritation to the urethra.

Closed System Catheters

I personally prefer closed system catheters. For me, closed systems are simply the most convenient option, especially due to my limited hand dexterity and being in a wheelchair. It's also great for travel or if you're in a public restroom, because it keeps the catheterization experience virtually touch-free, which reduces the risk of contamination from your hands.  

180 Medical carries a very wide variety of all of the major catheter brands, so it's hard to mention only a few, but I will say that one of the popular catheter options for someone with limited hand dexterity, whether male or female, is the MTG EZ-Gripper. The latex-free MTG EZ-Gripper is a self-contained, pre-lubricated closed system catheter. It features MTG's patented EZ-Advancer to help move the catheter forward and guide it into the urethra without the catheter retracting back into its bag. The packaging also has finger-sized holes to make it easy to open and hold.

There is also a device called a quadriplegic catheter inserter which is designed specifically for quadriplegics.  It is a spring-loaded clamp that fits around the catheter to aid those who cannot grasp the catheter.

Straight Catheters and Other Options

Some insurance companies do not cover advanced catheters while many others do. Medicare may cover advanced catheters with additional documentation, although there are requirements before they will approve. At 180 Medical, we'll be glad to verify your insurance coverage and find out what products will be covered under your plan.

If you are unable to obtain closed system catheters or hydrophilic/pre-lubricated catheters through your particular insurance plan, straight catheters and lubrication can still work great for you.

For people with limited hand dexterity, I would say the biggest hurdle is finding an easy way to open the sterile lubrication packets. Probably the best option would be to carry a small pair of trimming scissors with you, if you are able to manipulate them, and cut the packet open.

There are devices that you can use to manipulate and hold the catheter more easily. You may want to look into the quadriplegic catheter inserter, which is designed specifically for quadriplegics.  It is a spring-loaded clamp that fits around the catheter to help you grasp it.

I am available to discuss these issues, as that is part of my job here.  So if you do have any questions regarding catheterizing, please do not hesitate to give me a call.”—Bill

You may also find my blog post about learning to self-cath with limited hand dexterity helpful.

About the Authors:

Bill has worked for 180 Medical for ten years in various positions within the company. He works at the180 Medical corporate headquarters in Oklahoma City, OK. He often speaks to customers about adjusting to life after a spinal cord injury. Read more about Bill here.

Trish Eklund has worked for 180 Medical for three years as the Nebraska Office Coordinator. She lives in Nebraska with her husband and daughters. She is a feature writer for and