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Catheter Materials: An Overview

by Jessica May 19 2014 14:19
There are a lot of different choices out there in the intermittent catheter world. On top of figuring out the right length and french size, it's important to choose the right material as well. But sometimes, it can be a little confusing to know which one is best for your needs.

We'll shed some light on the different types of materials that are most commonly used in intermittent catheters.


The Three Most Common Catheter Materials


Vinyl Catheters


vinyl catheter example


Also known as PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), this is one of the most popular materials used in intermittent urinary catheters.

Here are some of the main features to know:

  • Firm yet pliable for easy insertion
  • Clear material allows you to see your output
  • Color-coded funnel to determine french size and for easy gripping of the catheter
  • Some brands can come without a funnel
  • PVC/vinyl catheter are typically free of latex (but be sure to let us know if you have a latex allergy)
  • Depending on the manufacturer, the eyelets (holes near the insertion tip for draining the bladder) may be cold-punched or polished/smoothed, which can be a factor in overall comfort


Red Rubber Latex Catheters


red rubber latex catheters


Also known as "red rubber" or "latex," this material is thermo-sensitive, which means it easily warms up to the surrounding temperatures to become pliable. Some people find the flexibility of red rubber latex catheters to be preference over vinyl or silicone options, while others have more difficulties with inserting it and want a firmer catheter. It's a matter of personal preference and what works best for your needs.

  • Rubber latex is most often red in color. Sometimes the appearance of the catheter may appear brown or orange.
  • All rubber latex catheters are opaque, and the funnel will not be color-coded for french size identification
  • NOT suitable for those with latex allergies or sensitivities


Silicone Catheters

silicone intermittent catheter


Silicone is one of the top materials of choice for many doctors, due to the material being highly tested and widely used over time.

  • Super smooth material
  • Flexibility lies somewhere between vinyl and rubber latex
  • May be a good choice for those with latex sensitivities or allergies, as silicone is latex-free
  • Clear to view output
  • Some brands feature a color-coded funnel for easy french size identification, while others are entirely silicone from insertion tip to funnel
  • Antibacterial catheter coating option in some brands 


Which Catheter material is right for you?

There is no one perfect choice for everyone across the board, since everyone's preferences and anatomy and needs are unique.

Take into consideration the features mentioned above, and decide with your doctor which feels the best and gives you the best performance.

As always, feel free to contact one of our Catheter Specialists, and we can help you out with finding the right urinary catheter for you!



180 medical jessAbout the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 5 years and currently holds the title of Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for such a fun, caring company.