The Basics of Intermittent Urinary Catheters

Learning catheter basics how to cath and what to cath with can seem daunting, but at Medipply we’re here to help you navigate the process. Find out who we are and how we can help you save money on catheters and catheter supplies. In three easy steps, we can help you save on at-home catheter delivery.

The very basics:

A catheter is a flexible tube inserted via your urethra into your bladder to allow for drainage. There are two types of catheterization: continuous and intermittent. 

Some conditions such as neurogenic bladder disorders (spinal cord injury, spina bifida or multiple sclerosis) and non-neurogenic bladder disorders (obstruction due to prostate enlargement, urethral strictures, or post-operative urinary retention) call for continuous catheterization, but intermittent catheterization offers a gentle alternative. Continuous catheterization can have complications, such as urinary tract infections (UTI), urethral strictures, and male infertility. Intermittent catheterization can work for either short-term bladder management or as part of their daily life, and be done at home either by the patient or a caregiver.


Not all catheters are the same, and when you are selecting the right one for you there are multiple points to consider. 

Catheter Sizes

Catheters come in many sizes to reflect the many people who wear them. With the right size catheter, urine will flow at the correct pace without discomfort—too small and you could have spillage, too large and you can have pain.

Catheters are sized by French size (Fr), which refers to the diameter. Sizes range from 5 to 24 Fr, and your doctor will prescribe the correct size. For most catheters, the size is denoted by the color of its funnel end. 

The catheters come in three lengths: male, female, pediatric, as well pocket/compact catheters. While they are grouped into these categories, there are cases where a woman might want to use a man’s length and so forth. Your doctor will help you identify exactly the right dimensions for your needs. 

Catheter Funnels

Funnels can be attached to better grip the catheter and keep you from touching the tube itself. The funnel will help direct the urine flow into the receptacle. Funnels can also attach to drain bags, in case a urinal or toilet is unavailable. 

As an alternative, catheters may come with a luer end, so that the end of our catheter is an open tube. The use of a luer end cath is a matter of preference. Some people prefer the more discreet profile, while others find the funnel easier for identification and would rather not touch the tube itself. Whatever makes you the most comfortable is ideal. 

Catheter Tips

There are two options for the insertion tip of your catheter: straight or coudé. A coudé tip or “bent tip” catheter is used if blockage or stricture is present. 

Straight catheters

  • The most common insertion tip is the straight tip. It tends to work universaly 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

  • 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 those in a wheelchair or pediatric 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.

At Medipply, our mission is to make buying and using catheters easier. Find out how we make the process of purchasing catheters and supplies more transparent. In a few easy steps, we can help you purchase catheters with insurance, connect you with the providers you prefer, and streamline the process of getting the medical supplies you need. Have questions? Check out our list of frequently asked questions and learn about how Medipply can help.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *