Understanding the Different Types of Catheters

understanding the different types of catheters

At 180 Medical, we believe it’s important to know all you can about the catheter supplies you use. We’ve put together some information about the different types of catheters as well as their benefits. This way, you can make the right decision with your treating physician about what kind of intermittent catheter to use.

Basics of Intermittent Catheters

First, please remember that no single catheter type works for everyone. Our catheter experts at 180 Medical understand that your needs and body type are unique to you, so we’ll work together with you to find the best product option possible.

Catheter Materials

Catheters come in all kinds of different materials, which can offer different benefits. For example, if you prefer a more rigid catheter, you might like vinyl catheters. If you want something very flexible, a red rubber latex catheter might be a better option.

The main catheter materials to know are:

  • Plastic, vinyl, or PVC
  • Silicone
  • Red rubber latex
  • Antibacterial coating
  • DEHP-free
  • Latex-free

The material you choose comes down to personal preference. However, 180 Medical’s Catheter Specialists can provide you with free samples to help you try out different options before committing to a full order.

Catheter French Sizes and Lengths

Your prescribing doctor will determine your ideal catheter French size, which is the diameter of the catheter tube. However, you can let them know if the prescribed catheter French size feels too small or too large.

Most catheters range between 10 French to 20 Fr, although you have options for specialty sizes outside of this range. In addition, if your child requires catheterization, you can get catheters in a small pediatric size.

catheter french size

Curious about the different lengths of catheters available?

The three main catheter lengths to know are:

  • Male length catheters (typically 16 inches)
  • Female length catheters (most often 6 to 8 inches)
  • Pediatric length catheters (10 inches)

Catheter Insertion Tips

The two main kinds of catheter insertion tips are:

  • Straight tip
  • Coudé tip

The majority of catheter users use straight tip catheters, which is the standard. Coudé tip catheters feature a curve in the insertion tip, which may work better for those who have difficulty passing a straight catheter.

Since this need occurs most often in males due to conditions like an enlarged prostate or urethral blockage, coudé catheters are typically available in male length or pediatric length.

If you think you need a coudé catheter, please let your doctor know. They must make the official determination on which catheter insertion tip is right for you.

coude tip catheter compared to straight catheter tip

Wondering if you’re using the right catheter? Let us help. Click here to get your question answered by one of our catheter specialists.

Three Most Common Types of Intermittent Catheters

The three different types of catheters are:

Straight Catheters

The straight catheter is considered the standard and features much of the original technology of catheters. However, advancements continue with new innovations in all different types of catheters, which may help increase comfort and convenience. For example, polished drainage eyelets may make insertion and withdrawal feel smoother.

Since straight intermittent catheters are uncoated, they need to be lubricated before use. This can be done with sterile, single-use lubrication packets or your desired amount from a tube of lubricating jelly.
straight intermittent catheters 180 medical

As with all intermittent catheters, the insertion tip of the catheter is on one end. Depending on the manufacturer and make, a catheter may have anywhere between one to four drainage eyelets, although most have one or two. The insertion tip goes into your urethra or stoma to drain the bladder.

The other end usually has a funnel, which can be used as a grip to direct your urine flow to a toilet or urinal. Some prefer to use the funnel as a connector to a drain bag.

Sometimes, people may also prefer their catheter without a funnel. This is called a luer end catheter.
straight intermittent catheters

Hydrophilic Intermittent Catheters

Hydrophilic catheters are very similar to straight intermittent catheters. What sets this type of catheter apart is its special hydrophilic coating that acts as lubrication once activated by water.

The coating is bonded to the surface of the catheter and becomes slippery when wet. This makes catheterization more comfortable and reduces friction in the urethra.

hydrophilic intermittent catheters 180 medical

Most variations of hydrophilic catheters include a sterile water packet inside the catheter package that will burst easily with applied pressure. This soaks the catheter and activates its lubrication.

Hydrophilic catheters are a great option because of their optimal comfort and ease of use, whether you’re cathing at home, work/school, or on the go.

hydrophilic intermittent catheters

Closed System Catheters

Closed system catheters are unique because the pre-lubricated or hydrophilic catheter is housed inside a sterile collection bag, which is a self-contained environment. Depending on the brand, the collection bag will vary in size, but most are metered so you can measure your output.

Because the system is completely integrated as one piece, you can self-cath anywhere you have privacy.

closed system catheter illustration 180 medicalClosed systems are a great option for reducing the risk of UTIs and bladder infections for a few reasons:

1. Closed system catheters are “touch-free,” because you never touch the catheter tube directly.

2. A soft, pre-lubricated cover known as an introducer tip helps the catheter get past the highest concentrations of bacteria as you insert it. This reduces the possibility of pushing pathogens up the urethra and into the bladder, which minimizes the risk of infection.

3. Many closed system catheters also come with insertion supplies that help you prepare for cathing. Many catheter kits like this will include cathing accessories such as gloves, an underpad or drape, gauze, disinfecting wipes or swabs, and even a refuse bag to maintain your privacy after you’re done.

Closed systems are popular with those who are in wheelchairs because it gives them the ability to intermittently self-cath without having to transfer from their chair to a toilet every time. It’s also in demand with frequent travelers and those who prefer the convenient, hygienic packaging.

closed system catheter kits


What Type of Catheter is Right for Me?

The decision about what type and size of intermittent catheter to use should be made with your prescribing physician after a thorough assessment of your medical condition and needs.

At 180 Medical, we understand that talking about personal issues like the need for catheters may sometimes feel embarrassing. When you call us to get your first order started, you can rest assured knowing that your questions and concerns will be treated with the respect and compassion that you deserve.

We also recognize that you are a unique individual with unique needs. Our catheter experts will take all of that into consideration as we work to customize and tailor your catheter supply order based on your doctor’s prescription, your insurance plan’s coverage, and your preferences.

Together, we can find the right catheter from one of the many brands we carry.

Get in touch with us today at 1-877-688-2729 to discuss your options!

Call Toll-Free (877) 688-2729

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About the Author
180 Medical is a nationally-accredited provider of intermittent catheters, incontinence supplies, and ostomy products.

Our highly trained specialists are glad to contribute information like their extensive product knowledge, fun happenings at 180 Medical, charitable events across the country, and more.