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Catheters 101: The Basic Components of Your Intermittent Catheter

by Jessica August 7 2014 13:31
Are you new to the world of self-catheterization? Maybe you've been recently told you need to start using catheters to drain your bladder, whether due to urinary retention, incontinence, neurogenic bladder or another condition. We here at 180 Medical understand that it can feel somewhat unnerving for some people to begin self-cathing, and that's why we'd like to help explain the basic components of an intermittent catheter, so that you can feel confident and comfortable as you are learning your new self-catheterization routine.

Catheter Sizes

First of all, you may want to know a bit about catheter sizes. After all, a catheter is inserted into your body, and since everyone has a different anatomy, there is no one catheter size that fits all.

Catheters are sized by what is called French size (Fr). The French size refers to the diameter of the catheter. Typically, sizes range from 5 Fr - 20 Fr. You can tell the French size of the catheter by the color of its funnel end. See chart (below) for funnel colors and French sizes.

catheter funnel colors

Your physician will determine which catheter French size is right for you, based on your needs and anatomy. When the proper size is selected for you, the urine should flow from your bladder at a timely pace while allowing the procedure to be performed free of discomfort and pain.

Catheter Funnels

Funnels are often attached to catheters for various reasons. As mentioned above, they are often color-coded for easy French size identification, depending on the brand and type of your catheter. Funnels are useful for gripping the catheter without touching the tube itself while directing the urine flow into a receptacle. Funnels are also designed to attach to drain bags, in case a urinal or toilet is unavailable.      

Catheters don’t always come with funnel ends, however. There is an option called a luer end, which comes just like a regular catheter (same features, same insertion tip) but without the funnel, leaving the end like an open tube.

Overall, the choice between a catheter with a funnel or luer end is typically a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer having a funnel for easy size identification or easier gripping without touching the tube itself. The luer end catheters are sometimes preferred because the packaging is sometimes more compact and discreet due to the lack of the thicker funnel. Also, male length (16 inch) luer end catheters sometimes come in a curved package as well, making it more discreet and “pocket-size” for those on the go.      

Catheter Lengths

There are three different lengths available for catheters: male, female, and pediatric (children):

  • Male length catheters are usually 16 inches in length.
  • Female length catheters range from 6-8 inches in length.
  • Pediatric length catheters typically range from 6-12 inches in length.
Women and children generally use shorter lengths because of their shorter urethras, although some may prefer a male length catheter.


female length vs male length catheters 180 medical

Catheter Tips

Catheters can have a straight tip or a coude insertion tip.

The most common insertion tip is the straight tip, which is the basic tip that will work for most people across the board - men, women, and children.

The coude tip, also known as a curved or bent tip, is used most often when a blockage or stricture makes the use of a straight catheter more difficult or even impossible. This is most common in men, so the coude tip is almost always on a male length catheter.

coude vs straight tip catheters

If you have questions about certain urologic catheter products you've come to the right place. We specialize in intermittent catheters so you can feel confident you are speaking with a catheter expert to answer all of your questions. Call or fill out this form today.

Note: Always consult with your physician or other health care provider on what type of catheter is right 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! She loves writing, art, music, and spending time with friends and family.