What are the Basics of Clean Intermittent Catheterization?

clean intermittent catheterization

Have you been told you need to use urinary catheters? If so, you need to learn the basics of clean intermittent catheterization. Let’s talk about everything you need to know so you can be fully informed and ready to start learning how to perform clean intermittent catheterization.

Why Do People Need to Use Catheters?

First, let’s talk about the reasons for needing to use intermittent catheters. Contrary to popular belief, aging isn’t the only thing that may lead to the need for catheters. In fact, people of all ages, even newborns, can need the use of urinary catheters to drain their bladder. Additionally, getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to use catheters or incontinence supplies.

Ultimately, any chronic condition that creates dysfunction in the way part or all of the urinary system normally works may result in the need for intermittent catheterization. Take a look below to learn more about how the urinary system functions and what conditions may lead to needing to use catheters.

How Does the Urinary System Work?

In a normally functioning urinary system, the body will take in nutrients from the food and beverages eaten. After that, it needs to break down and eliminate the waste products left behind in the blood and bowels.

This is where the kidneys step in to filter out the waste in the form of urine and send it down the ureters to the bladder. The bladder, which is a somewhat triangular hollow organ in the lower belly, has walls that expand to store urine. When it’s time to go to the bathroom, the bladder’s walls contract, and the opening of the bladder, called a sphincter, opens to release urine down the urethra. The urethra is a tube that lets urine out of the body.

how does the urinary system work

This complex body system is all done through brain signals, nerve signals, and complex muscular movements. If any part of this system is damaged, it may create issues with being able to release urine naturally.

What Conditions Lead to the Need for Urinary Catheters?

Some common conditions leading to intermittent catheterization may include:

  • Urinary incontinence
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Bladder retention
  • Spina bifida
  • Stroke or brain injury
  • Bladder exstrophy
  • Neurogenic bladder

Intermittent catheterization can be life-saving for those who have no ability to release urine naturally. If the bladder does not completely empty, a number of complications could occur, such as urinary tract infections that could become severe if left untreated.

What is Clean Intermittent Catheterization?

Clean intermittent catheterization is the process of using an intermittent catheter tube to drain the bladder when it’s time to use the bathroom. Users who are able to self-catheterize learn to insert the catheter on their own, while others may require the help of a loved one or a caregiver.

The process involves removing the intermittent catheter from its sterile packaging, inserting it into the urethra or a surgically-created opening called a stoma to reach the bladder, fully draining urine through the tube and into a chosen receptacle such as a urinal, urinary drainage bag, or toilet, and then removing and disposing of the catheter.

Intermittent catheters are single-use devices, which means that should be used only once and then thrown away. This helps prevent contamination and infection. The bacteria and pathogens left behind on or inside the catheter may cause infection if re-inserted into the body. Even professional cleanings are generally not able to fully sterilize intermittent catheters. That’s why rule number one of learning to cath is to practice good hygiene to keep yourself safe and healthy and never reuse a catheter.

How Do I Learn How to Perform Clean Intermittent Catheterization?

First, your prescribing healthcare professional will likely start by teaching you the basics in their facility. However, once you get home, it can sometimes be a little unnerving to start trying to cath on your own without instructions right in front of you.

Luckily, 180 Medical also offers tons of educational catheter resources on our website and blog to help. Plus, our Catheter Specialists can provide support to customers who need to learn how to use catheters.

By choosing 180 Medical, you’ll never be left wondering what steps to take to learn how to perform clean intermittent catheterization. In addition to our online instructions, we can provide a full-color booklet as well as a DVD with step-by-step instructions for learning clean intermittent catheterization.

How Often Will I Need to Catheterize?

Since we’re not your medical professional, we can’t say for sure. However, your urologist or another prescribing healthcare practitioner will let you know how often you will need to cath. Plus, they should be able to let you know if this will be a long-term need due to a chronic underlying condition or if it is only a short-term need, as is sometimes the case after certain types of surgeries or after the birth of a child.

In other words, no daily catheterization schedule works for everyone. Some people may have a milder form of bladder retention, so they only need to catheterize to fully empty the bladder once per day. Others with a more severe condition may need to catheterize multiple times per day. Again, your prescribing healthcare professional will be the best person to consult when it comes to finding out how often and what times of day you should perform intermittent catheterization.

What Size of Catheter Do I Need to Use?

This is another situation where your doctor will let you know the best catheter French size for you to use based on your unique anatomy. Also, they may suggest the length of the catheter.

Typically, the male anatomy requires a male length catheter of at least 16 inches long. Children usually need smaller French sizes, and pediatric catheters are usually around 10 inches long to suit their smaller anatomy as well. Women have the most flexibility in terms of options. Since the female urethra is shorter, female catheters typically range between 6 to 8 inches. However, some women prefer pediatric length or male length catheters.

catheter specialists type of catheters

What Type of Catheter Do I Need to Use?

When it comes to the type of catheter to use, you have a wide variety of options. 180 Medical offers a wide selection of high-quality catheter supplies, including every type of catheter from all the leading brands on the market.

Here are the types of catheters to know:

Uncoated Straight Catheters

Some people prefer to use uncoated catheters since they are the original technology and fairly basic. Since they are uncoated, you will need to lubricate it with sterile water-based lubricating jelly before insertion.

Hydrophilic Catheters (Coated Catheters)

Hydrophilic catheters are a technological step up from the standard uncoated catheters. However, they’re just as easy to use once you get the hang of it. This catheter type has a thin coating that activates with water to become super slippery and well lubricated. This means the lubricating solution is directly bonded to the catheter tube, so you don’t have to worry about it sloughing off, getting messy, or starting to hurt. It helps reduce friction inside the urethra to make catheterization more comfortable.

While some hydrophilic catheters require a period of soaking the catheter in water for up to 60 seconds, the popular GentleCath Glide is ready to use as soon as you pop its included water packet. Other types, such as the Coloplast SpeediCath catheter is packaged and pre-soaked in its own saline solution, so it is also ready to use when you open it.

Closed System Catheters

Thanks to their all-in-one packaging, closed system catheters may make clean intermittent catheterization easy and convenient. Each closed system includes an attached drainage bag, while the catheter tube itself is typically pre-lubricated. This way, you don’t have to worry about applying lubricating jelly to it. Closed system catheters are great for people who use wheelchairs, but they’re really ideal for anyone who wants an easy, sterile way to self catheterize.

Pocket Catheters

Pocket catheters are just what they sound like: pocket-sized, discreet catheter options. They are available in straight uncoated, hydrophilic, and even closed system catheter options. Some may come in curved packages. Others are so discreet, they look just like a tube of lipstick or mascara.

Coudé Tip Catheters

If you are unable to pass a straight tip catheter, your doctor may prescribe a coudé tip catheter. A coudé tip is available on all of the above-mentioned catheter types. It’s simply a different insertion tip than the standard straight tip. Coudé catheters are ideal for bypassing blockages, urethral strictures, or obstructions caused by an enlarged prostate.

How Do I Find Out Which Catheter is Right for Me?

We understand it’s hard to know just what type of catheter will work best for you, especially when there are so many options. However, 180 Medical can help you narrow down your choices by providing free catheter samples. Plus, we’ll verify your insurance coverage to determine what catheter types your health insurance plan will cover.

Contact our friendly specialists today. We’re ready to be your one-stop source for customer support, reliable shipments, education, and more!

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About the Author
Jessica is a Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical, and she's been a part of the 180 family for over 11 years. Her favorite part of working at 180 Medical is our commitment to values of compassion and integrity and the positive impact we help make on peoples' lives.

She loves writing, art, gardening, cooking, and spending time with her fiancé and their 3 dogs.