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Catheters 101: The Basic Components of Your Intermittent Catheter

by Jessica August 7 2014 13:31
catheters 101 basics of intermittent catheters

Are you new to the world of self-catheterization? Whether due to urinary retention, incontinence, neurogenic bladder, a spinal cord injury, or another medical condition requiring the use of a urinary catheter to drain your bladder, 180 Medical is here for you.

We understand that it can feel somewhat unnerving for some people to start cathing for the first time, and that's why we want to help you by explaining the basic components of an intermittent catheter.

This can be a great start to feeling more confident and comfortable with the process as you begin to learn your own self-catheterization routine. 


Catheter Sizes

Because everyone has a different body and different needs, we like to remind you that there is no one catheter out there that will work for everyone across the board. The same goes for the size, catheter type, and length of your catheter product.

Catheters are sized by what is called "French sizes," which refers to the diameter of the catheter tube. Most typically, sizes range from 5 Fr - 24 Fr.

When you receive your first order of catheters, thanks to a universal color-coding system, you can tell the catheter's French size by the color of its funnel end, unless it does not have a funnel or if the brand does not use color-coding for its funnels. 


catheter funnel reference chart


With the right French size, urine should flow from your bladder at a timely pace while allowing the procedure to be performed free of discomfort and pain.

A catheter that is too small will let urine flow around the sides of the tube, which can make quite a mess. On the other hand, you certainly don't want a catheter that is too big for your urethra, which could cause discomfort and pain.

Your doctor will select and prescribe the proper size with you, taking into consideration your preferences as well as your particular anatomy.


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.

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 may be smaller or more discreet due to the lack of a funnel.


Catheter Lengths

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

Women and children generally use shorter lengths because of their shorter urethras, although some may prefer a male length catheter. There are also compact and pocket catheter options available for both genders.

If you're interested in a more discreet option like a pocket catheter, feel free to contact us and talk to one of our Catheter Specialists.

Curious if your insurance covers catheters? We can verify your insurance plan for you to see if and how your catheter products may be covered. 

intermittent catheter size and length comparison


Catheter Tips

Catheters can have a straight tip or a coudé 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.

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


coudé insertion tip vs straight insertion tip catheters



Do you have any other questions about urinary catheters? You've come to the right place.

At 180 Medical, we specialize in urethral catheter products, as well as ostomy supplies, so when you speak to one of our specialists, you know you're talking to a catheter expert who will consider your needs and preferences as well as your doctor's recommendations in helping you find an intermittent catheter that can be efficient and easy to use for you! Contact us today!

Disclaimer: Please note that this is intended to provide a general understanding of the basics of intermittent catheters. It should not be used in place of any recommendations or instructions from your prescribing physician or other professional healthcare professional. Together, with your doctor's office, 180 Medical can help you find a catheter that works for you.


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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! 

Catheter French Sizes

by Jessica February 24 2014 15:10
urinary intermittent catheter french sizes blog header


Determining the right size of intermittent catheter to use can greatly increase the efficiency and comfort of your self-catheterization routine. But how does one choose the correct size to fit their individual needs? Read on to find out more!


French Sizes

All internal catheters, both foleys and intermittent styles, are sized by a universal gauge system which is referred to as a "French size." This is based upon the measure of the external diameter of the tube. 

The way the size is determined is a simple multiplication of 3 (diameters in millimeters multiplied by 3 = the French size). So, if a catheter has a diameter of 4.7 millimeters, the French (Fr) size is 14. 

Catheter Funnel Colors

Most vinyl and silicone intermittent catheters with funnels use a universal color coding system to help you determine what French size a catheter is. See the below chart for the most common French sizes along with their corresponding funnel color codes. 

Catheter funnel colors

Getting the Right Size

Why is determining the French size such an important part of selecting the right catheter for your needs? Efficiency and comfort are both important elements in the self-catheterization process. If you use a urinary catheter with too large of a diameter for your urethra, cathing can be more difficult and even painful. If it's far too large, you will not be able to insert it at all.

On the other hand, if you use a French size that is too small, you may find that the overall pace of draining your bladder will go much slower. On top of that, if you use a catheter smaller than your urethra, urine released from the bladder will not only escape through the catheter tube but could also go around it, which can get pretty messy, as the flow will be harder to control. 

Luckily, there is a wide range of sizes all the way from pediatric sizes (for children) to larger French sizes, typically for adults. That way, you and your doctor can select the right size for you!

There are also varying lengths to accommodate for the different urethral lengths between genders and ages:
  • Pediatric (typically around 10 inches)
  • Female (6-8 inches)
  • Male/Unisex: (16 inches)

How Do You Find the Catheter That's Right for You?

To determine the right size of catheter for your individual needs, please be sure to consult with your prescribing healthcare professional, so that you can get a hassle-free experience with your intermittent catheters every time. 

Contact 180 Medical during our business hours by Live Chat or giving us a call at 1-877-688-2729 to speak to one of our trained, friendly specialists. We are happy to find the right catheter for your needs, and we can also verify your insurance for you to determine your catheter coverage. 

180 medical catheter online catalog showcase footer

About the Author:

Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 4 years and currently holds the title of Purchasing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for such a fun, caring company.