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Catheter 101

Confused about the world of catheters? We can help, with our guide to the types of catheters, what might work best for you, and the insurance process.
Catheterization can seem overwhelming but we’re here to guide you through the process. Here are the basics of types, tips, and to-dos to get you started


Catheterization is a solution for bladder control issues, whether it’s urinary incontinence (leaking) or urinary retention (a situation where you are unable to completely empty your bladder). Bladder issues fall into two categories: neurogenic (nerve-related) or non-neurogenic. A few common conditions are below:
  • Neurogenic: Spinal Cord Injuries: Trauma to your spinal cord could temporarily or permanently impair the connections needed for your bladder to function.
  • Neurogenic: Spina Bifida: Present at birth, spina bifida is a developmental defect of the spinal column in which the spinal nerves are exposed to some degree. The severity varies and can result in impaired mobility as well as bladder and bowel function.
  • Neurogenic: Multiple Sclerosis: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative, chronic autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. It’s the most common cause of neurological disability for young adults, affecting one in 800 people across Europe and North America. As the disease progresses, myelin, the protective coating around the nerve cells, is destroyed, leading to the breakdown of bodily functions, including bladder control.
  • Non-Neurogenic: Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (Enlarged Prostate): Often caused by prostate cancer, Men diagnosed with BPH may see their condition worsen as the prostate grows.
Additionally diabetes, strokes, bladder cancer or other prostate problems may result in bladder control issues.


Intermittent Catheters: Some conditions require the full-time or continuous need for catheterization, while others only necessitate intermittent catheterization. For intermittent catheterization, the schedule may vary but typically you would need to change the catheter every six hours. 

Indwelling and external: A “catheter” is the flexible tube that’s inserted into your bladder to allow for drainage. Indwelling catheters, commonly referred to as Foley Catheters, reside entirely inside of the bladder. A medical professional will insert the catheter through the urethra or through a tiny hole in the abdomen—this is called a suprapubic catheter. For both types, a balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated with water to hold the catheter in place. The balloon is then deflated when the catheter should be removed.

External catheters are typically prescribed to men who have issues not with urinary retention but functional or medical disabilities. These condom-like catheters cover the penis head, and include a tube that leads to a drainage bag.


Straight Catheters: The most common insertion tip is the straight tip. It tends to work universally and allows for periodic emptying of the bladder with a sterile catheter, helping to prevent UTIs.
Coude Catheters: A coudé has a slightly curved tip allowing for a more gentle insertion. More commonly used by men, these are typically prescribed for patients with an enlarged prostate as the curved tip can bypass tight spots with ease. Coudé tips are available in different styles: tapered tip, olive tip, or Tiemann tip catheter.
Closed system catheters or kits: Beyond the tip type, there are also closed system catheters, which allow you to cath into a self-contained collection bag. This system works well for pediatric patients or wheelchair users. Closed system catheters help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as they allow for discreet, secure and reliable catheterization wherever you are. Many include an additional “insertion” or “introducer” tip. The pre-lubricated tip more easily skips the initial bacteria that can be found in the urethra—significantly reducing the risk of infection.


There are a range of options on the market for you to choose from—from specifics sizes to slightly different models from brands like Hollister, Bard, Convatec, and Rusch. Your medical professional will prescribe a type for you, which you would need to get from a medical supplier that your insurance is in network with. You may be limited to the models those providers offer. With Medipply, you have options. We work directly with suppliers to find the best product for you covered by your insurance, taking into account your needs and preferences. We give you the right to choose and help you minimize out-of-pocket costs. Learn more here.

 Coudé Catheters

 All You Need to Know About Coudé Catheters.
 If you need a more gentle option, a coudé catheter could be right for you. Here’s all you need to know about this variety.
 For some catheter users, a catheter than can be inserted more gently is necessary. Named for the French term for elbow or bend, a coudé catheter has a slightly curved end, allowing for a more gentle insertion and the ability to navigate around certain obstructions.
Coudé catheters are most often prescribed for those with an enlarged prostate as the curved tip can bypass tight spots with ease, but they can be used by both genders. Perhaps your anatomy, an obstruction, or a stricture makes it difficult to maneuver a straight tip catheter. Or you may have experienced pain, discomfort, or bleeding with a straight tip catheter. You may have one of the following conditions: 
  • BPH—Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, more commonly referred to as an enlarged prostate.
  • Scarring from prior surgery.
  • Urethral strictures caused by disease or prior urethral trauma.
  • False passages in the urethra or a stoma.
  • Previous or current radiation treatment for prostate or bladder cancer.
  • An atrophic vagina.
 Because they are often used for conditions affecting the prostate, coudé catheters usually come in male or pediatric length, but women-length coudé catheters are also available. Coudé tips differ based on the angle and length of the curve as well as the tip itself. The most common tip types are tapered tip, olive tip, or Tiemann tip catheter.
Tapered: The most common variety features a short, strong curve that is smaller at the insertion point, making it ideal for navigating through strictures or bypassing enlarged prostates.
Olive: Here the tip is ball-shaped with a curve to aid in smooth passage around obstructions to the bladder or false passages that tapered or Tiemann tips might catch on.
Tiemann: These feature an elongated and tapered tip which is typically more flexible than the other options, making for easier navigation around urethral strictures. No matter the type, you can find a coudé catheters in the material of your choice (vinyl or PVC, silicone, or red rubber latex) as well as in basic uncoated intermittent catheters or pre-lubricated catheter options, hydrophilic catheters or closed system catheter kits.
 Using a coudé catheter is slightly different than using a straight catheter, but with practice, it should be no problem. With a coudé catheter, the tip of the catheter must be oriented correctly (curve up) for proper insertion. Many options include a guide on the funnel, like a strip or notch, or a guiding line down the catheter itself, to note the proper angle.
Once you have the hang of the angle, the steps are similar to the straight cathering process
  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry thoroughly, if possible. You can also use antibacterial hand sanitizer.
  2. Disinfect the insertion site with antiseptic wipes using a circular motion around the urethral opening to reduce the risk of infection.
  3. Open the catheter and lubricate (if you are not using a pre-lubricated option).
  4. Once you are comfortably positioned, angle the coudé tip and insert it into your urethra. Gently slide the catheter in until you reach your bladder (you will feel some resistance when you reach the bladder sphincter). Continue to insert until urine starts to flow, applying gentle pressure as needed.
  5. Once urine stops flowing and your bladder is empty, slowly withdraw and discard the catheter.


 There is a range of options on the market for you to choose from—from specifics sizes to slightly different models from brands like Hollister, Coloplast, Cure, and Bard. Your medical professional will prescribe a type for you, and for your insurance to cover a coudé catheter, you will need supporting documentation to justify your need for the coudé tip.
With Medipply, you have options to be sure you can find the right system for you. We work directly with suppliers to find the best product for you, covered by your insurance, taking into account your needs and preferences. We give you the right to choose and help you minimize out-of-pocket costs. Learn more here.

How to use a catheter

The task of inserting and using your own catheter might sound daunting, but it’s very straight-forward. Read our guide to using your own intermittent catheter system. Catheterization can be confusing but at Medipply we’re here to help you navigate the process.

Practicing Good Cathing Hygiene Read More »

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Who We Are

Medipply was created by industry experts who believe patients should feel empowered to choose the products they use. Our mission is to make the process of purchasing medical supplies more transparent. We help you manage your care as you see fit-clearing up insurance confusion, connecting you with the providers you prefer, and streamlining the process of getting the catheter delivery and medical supplies you need.

Created with you and for you

We know what it’s like to be a patient. You don’t always know your rights, providers switch out your catheter products, or your insurance coverage changes leaving you alone to search for a new option. So we’ve collaborated with some of the top patient organizations in the country to return the right to choose to you, the patient.

"With I've finally found someone that helps me through a jungle of different suppliers and manufacturers, that always has my back and assures that I get the best urinary catheter supplies and service."
Jack Peterson
Dallas, TX
"I was able to find a urinary catheter supplier using medipply. I recently changed insurance and had a challenge finding a supplier that could accept my medicaid."
Jack Peterson
Dallas, TX
"I'm using a coudé catheter. My supplier couldn't service me anymore, so had to go looking for new provider. Found Medipply that connected me to supplier that accepts my VHC insurance. Quick & hassle free."
Jack Peterson
Dallas, TX
"Using has been a great experience. My products arrived fast and insurance was hassle free. Nice Service"
Jack Peterson
Dallas, TX

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