Urinary catheters are tubes inserted into a patient’s bladder through the urethra. This tube allows for urine from the bladder to be drained and collected. Other catheter supplies can be used to inject liquids into the bladder for treatment of conditions such as a urinary infection. Catheters are used to treat and manage many medical conditions:
- urinary retention
- benign prostatic hyperplasia
- urinary incontinence
- many orthopedic procedures that inhibit movement
Catheters can be obtained from catheter supplies retailers or even from physician’s giving away free catheter supplies for patients who need them.
Catheter supplies are classified into many different types depending on the characteristics necessary for effective treatment. Catheters are classified by the width of the catheter opening inserted into the urethra. This is called the French catheter scale (F). They must be a size that allows free flow of urine but also accommodates for the escape and flow of thick, bloody or urine filled with sediment. The most common sizes of catheter given as free catheter supplies are 0 F (3.3mm) to 28 F (9.3mm). Catheterization is often performed by a clinician but free catheter supplies and purchased supplies allow for self-catheterization, which is sometimes necessary in certain medical conditions. More permanent catheterization can be performed with catheter supplies that allow for an indwelling catheter. Free catheter supplies are available in a variety of materials such as latex, polyurethane and silicone.
There are a variety of specific types of catheters available from catheter supplies retailers and from physicians as free catheter supplies used in a hospital or clinic setting the Foley and the Robinson:
- The Foley catheter is an indwelling urinary catheter which maintains its position in the bladder and urethra with a small balloon tip that is inflated with sterile water. This type of catheter can be bought from catheter supplies outlets in sizes 5 cm and 30 cm.
- Robinson catheters are intermittent flexible catheters used for short term drainage of the bladder. These catheters contain no balloon and must require aid in order to stay within the bladder. They are often coated with a hydrophilic substance that helps aid it’s use. Other types of catheters are available from catheter supplies outlets such as the coude catheter which has a curved tip to accommodate for the curvature of the urethra and the external or condom catheter which is useful in males who are incontinent.
The use of a catheter, whether purchased from a retailer or given as a trial of free catheter supplies from a physician requires careful consideration. Catheters pose a significant risk of infection for those who use them inappropriately. Patients who are incontinent are commonly catheterized to ease the involvement and cost of their care but this also increases the risk for urinary tract infection. Other conditions that may result from long term use of a catheter includes infections of the blood, injury to the urethra, and painful bladder stones. The use of larger catheters is more likely to be damaging to the urethra while condom catheters carry a lower risk of infection than those that are indwelling. Some people have allergies to latex which requires the use of other types of catheter supplies in order to effectively treat their conditions. It is important that patients discuss the type of catheter that will be best for their course of treatment. Patients should evaluate the costs of catheter supplies and also try to find resources that may be able to provide free catheter supplies to them in order to alleviate the cost of urinary catheterization.
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