Types of Catheters

Intermittent Catheters

Intermittent catheters, also called I.C.’s are used to drain the bladder of individuals who have conditions that prevent the bladder from partial or complete draining (voiding). These catheters are inserted through the urethra and into the bladder. The part of the catheter that comes to rest inside the bladder has drainage holes called “eyes” through with urine drains from the bladder through the catheter to the outside of the body. Usually drainage of the bladder takes place over a toilet just like a normal full void.

Intermittent Catheters are covered by Medicare, most Medicaid, and many private insurance companies. Usually up to 200 catheters per month are covered which is enough for most individuals for one month. Re-use is not recommended by Medicare or other authorities because of the much higher chance of urinary tract infections. How many you need per month is determined by how many times a day your physician has determined that you need to catheterize; however, on average an invididual might catheterize 4 to 6 times per day.

Intermittent Catheters are generally available in male lengths of about 16 inches, female lengths of about 3 to 6 inches, and pediatric lengths of about 10 inches. The size of a catheter is not measured in length. The size is actually a measure of the outside diameter of the catheter and is referred to as a French size. An example is a 14 French female catheter. The French size is 14 but the length is 6 inches. Another example is a 12 French male catheter that is 16 inches long.

Most intermittent catheters are made from PVC, plastic, silicone, or red rubber. Each material offers its own degree of flexibility or rigidity. Red rubber catheters are the softest, thus the most flexible. These require significant dexterity to properly insert. Generally, silicone catheters are slightly more rigid than red rubber catheters, followed by PVC and plastic.

Choosing which intermittent catheter to use is easier when they are organized by catheter type. At S2 Medical, we organize them by brand into Male Straight, Female, Coude, Red Rubber, Hydrophilic, Closed Systems, and Specialty intermittent catheters.



Male External Catheters

Self-Adhesive External Catheters are the most common type male external catheter, also called condom catheter or “externals”.  Condom catheters are specially designed for men and are used to drain urine from the bladder.  Male external catheters, available in latex or silicone, self-adhering or Texas-style with no adhesive, are connected to a short length of tubing that connects to a urine bag called a leg bag.  At night, the condom catheter may be attached to a night drain bag.  Each external catheter is intended for one day’s (24 hours) wear. Remove the catheter each day, clean the skin, and re-apply a fresh catheter to help protect the skin and for best performance of the catheter.

Medicare covers 35 male external catheters per month. Most state Medicaid covers 30 or more.  Private Insurance Companies usually cover externals; however, in recent years, many have changed their coverage criteria.