The first step in selecting a catheter is understanding what one truly is. A catheter is a tube, often used in various locations, such as the bladder, to aid in the entry and removal of fluids to and from your body. Catheters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and as such, their uses vary slightly according to their purposes.
Urinary Catheters are often made from rubber, plastic, or silicone. These are used in special circumstances in which a person is unable to relieve themselves. This inability can lead to kidney failure and other serious consequences due to the build-up of urine in the bladder. There are three sole types of urinary catheters: External, Indwelling, and Short-term catheters.
External catheters, otherwise known as Condom Catheters (for men), are placed on outer surfaces of the body. This type is mostly used for men who have mental or functional issues. It is placed over the penis and connects to a bag, acting as a sort of drainage for the body. Because theses catheters are not placed inside the body, they are normally more comfortable, and have a lower risk of infection. They must be changed daily, however some brands allow for a longer usage.
Indwelling catheters (Urethral) rest in the bladder and can be used from any range of time. The insertion of this catheter is done by a nurse through the urethra. In rare cases, the catheter reaches the bladder through an minuscule hole located on the abdomen. To prevent the catheter from sliding out, there is a tiny balloon filled with water, which can be deflated when it is time to come out.
Short-term catheters (Intermittent) are as the name suggests, for short-term uses only, including post-surgery. Because the body takes time to heal, and a patient may not be as fit to make it to the bathroom on their own, this catheter makes the process entirely easier, and is only used during the recovery period. The insertion of it can be done by the patient himself, or by a caregiver. This catheter is often referred to doctors as the “in-and-out catheter.”
Intravenous Catheters (IV) have two types: Pheripheral Venous and Central Venous. Pheripheral Venous catheters are meant for short-term usage and usually connected to veins in the hand, forearm, or even foot. The most they can be used is often up to four days, as they may cause complications afterwards. In delicate situations, using microcatheters (smaller ones) are necessary as to not puncture any vital veins.
Central Venous Catheters are for longer usages and are connected to important veins that come directly from the heart through areas such as the chest, neck, arm, or leg. The range of time the catheter can be in goes from months to even years. Cancer patients often use this type of catheter for Chemotherapy.
Chest Drainage Catheters
Cases in which Chest Drainage Catheters are used are not very common. Patients with Pneumothorax or Hemothorax (air or blood in the space between lungs and the chest wall) often use these to provide drainage. Because they are placed somewhere delicate, they are designed to not cause tissue scarring, minimize bruising to the chest wall, and slide in without issues.