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Understanding the Difference Between Catheter Types

Understanding the Difference Between Catheter Types

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Have you been told you need to use catheters? If so, you may be wondering what type of catheter to use or if there’s even a difference between catheter types.

Let’s examine the main types of urinary catheters that drain the bladder, which are intermittent catheters and indwelling Foley catheters.

The Difference Between Intermittent Catheter Types

First, sterile intermittent catheters are for single-use. In other words, you insert these into the bladder through the urethra or a stoma, then throw the intermittent catheter away. This keeps your catheterization practice hygienic, which may help reduce the risk of complications like UTIs (urinary tract infections).

Your prescribing healthcare practitioner will usually demonstrate how to insert your catheters since you will likely be self-cathing on a regular basis. In addition, they will let you know how frequently you should self-cath each day, week, or month.

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The 3 main types of intermittent catheters to know are:

Straight Catheters

This intermittent catheter is the original urinary catheter type. It has come a long way since the first catheter’s invention.

Straight catheters are uncoated, so you must manually lubricate this catheter type before use. Typically, people prefer to use lubricating jelly, which is available at 180 Medical in single-use sterile packets of catheter lubricant or flip-top tubes. Additionally, straight catheters are available in travel-sized pocket catheter options, which come in a curved or U-shaped package. If you prefer a more discreet catheter option, you can easily tuck these into your pocket, briefcase, or backpack for easy carrying.
link to straight catheters on 180 Medical's online catalog

Hydrophilic Catheters

Hydrophilic catheters are similar to straight catheters in terms of length and insertion tip options. The main difference is that hydrophilic catheters have a unique coating that activates with water, making it lubricated and ready to use. These don’t require additional catheter lubricating jelly so you can use these with less mess and less effort.
link to hydrophilic catheters on 180 Medical's online catalog

Closed System Catheters

Closed system catheters are all-in-one sterile options that come in a self-contained collection bag. Frequent travelers and people in wheelchairs often prefer closed system catheter kits, thanks to their ease of use. Plus, these pre-lubricated catheters often come with additional insertion supplies like gloves, an underpad, and antiseptic wipes to minimize the risk of infection. In addition, closed systems feature introducer tips, which help bypass the highest concentrations of bacteria in the urethra.

link to closed system catheters on 180 Medical's online catalog

All of the above-mentioned types of intermittent catheters are typically available in a variety of options, depending on the brand you choose, including:

  • straight tip catheters
  • coudé tip catheters
  • male length catheters
  • female length catheters
  • pediatric length catheters
  • pocket catheters

Indwelling Foley Catheters

If intermittent catheters are not an option, then your doctor may determine you should have an indwelling Foley catheter. Your doctor or a nurse will place the Foley catheter for you. A small inflated balloon holds the Foley catheter in place in the bladder, which keeps it in place for days or weeks. The length of time depends on your doctor’s recommendation.

One potential downside of using a Foley catheter is that it may increase the risk of infections like UTIs (urinary tract infections). When a catheter is left in for long periods of time as with Foleys, it can sometimes lead to bacterial growth in the urethra and bladder.

What Catheter Type is Right for You?

At 180 Medical, we carry all the major catheter brands and types. You can try free samples of catheters to determine what feels and works best for you.

catheter brands at 180 medicalContact us at 180 Medical to start receiving the right intermittent catheters for you!

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Disclaimer: This post’s intent is to provide a general understanding of product options that are available on the market. Please do not use this information in place of recommendations from your prescribing healthcare provider. Lastly, for medical advice, please consult with your doctor.

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About the Author
Jessica is the Sr. Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, where she's worked for 12 years. She loves seeing the positive impact we make on our customers' lives through our values of compassion and education.

Outside of work, you can find her at her favorite local coffee shop, hanging out at home with her fiancé and their dogs, or browsing garden centers, where she will almost certainly buy another plant she doesn't really need.