Urinary catheters are used for several reasons; oftentimes, people with diseases and conditions that affect the urinary system need to wear an indwelling catheter. Some people also have to periodically catheterize themselves to relieve themselves when the nerves that allow the bladder to empty are compromised. In the hospital and nursing home setting, nurses are often required to get sterile urine samples via a procedure called a straight catheterization. There are different catheter types for specific needs of the patient.
Catheter types vary in size and shape. A two-way Foley catheter is an indwelling type of catheter that has two channels running through the inside. One of the channels allows urine to flow from the tip to the end where it can drain into a collection bag. A three-way Foley catheter has an extra channel for instilling medications or irrigation fluids. Foley catheters have a balloon at the tip that is inflated after the catheter is in place to secure it. The smaller Foley catheters have a 5 ml balloon and the larger ones may have a 5 ml, 10 ml or 30 ml balloon.
Straight catheters are one-time-use catheters; unlike the Foley catheter, the straight catheter does not have a balloon at the end to hold it in place. The straight catheter is usually used to obtain a sterile specimen of urine for laboratory purposes. A straight catheter only has a single lumen, because it is only used for a one-time emptying of the bladder. An intermittent catheter is very similar to a straight catheter; it is often used for self-catheterization.
The different types of catheters are designed for specific functions. For instance, the Coudé catheter has a curved design at the tip that allows for insertion into a male urethra affected by prostatic changes. The different catheter types come in varying sizes. The most common size is a 10 F (French), but there are smaller sizes. The most common sizes run from 10 F to 28 F, but 30 F is also available.
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