What Is A Catheter Used For

What Is A Catheter

So you want to know what is a catheter? A catheter is a hollow tube made for the purpose of inserting into the cavity of the body or duct for transfer of fluids into or out of the body. They are mostly manufactured with rubber or plastic with varied length and size among the different types. Catheters are mostly found in the medical environment. It takes a heath care professional to insert this material in the body. Catheters when inserted can be left in the body for variable time length and can even be left permanently. If left permanently, it is called indwelling catheter or a permcath. The length of use of catheter is dependent on the patient’s need. Most of the catheters commonly used are the urinary, intravenous and cardiac catheterization catheters.

Urinary Catheter

This type of catheter is mainly used to remove urine from the body. It is mostly placed in the body via the urethra. It collects urine from the bladder and transfers it into an outward collection bag. It can also be used for the treatment of urinary dysfunction cases. In a case were the bladder cannot be controlled which is mostly found in women with epidural during child birth, urinary catheter plays a vital role. It can also be useful for treating other various medical defects that affects bladder control.

Urinary catheter comes in three different types; external, intermittent, and indwelling catheter. The external or condom catheter is for external use. Instead of being inserted into the body, it is placed outside the body over the urethra opening; it collects urine from this point and transfers it to a drainage bag. It has been found not to be very effective for women, so, it is mostly used by men.

People with undersized bladders and cannot completely drain their bladder by themselves are advised to go for the intermittent catheter. This type is inserted via the urethra. It is removed intermittently as bladder gets drained completely. Intermittent catheter can be disposable or reusable.

The indwelling catheter as the name sounds is often used for a long time because it is mostly left in the body (bladder) for a longer time. It is also inserted via the urethra and can be called the Foley catheter. It is held in place with the help of a balloon which is punctured once there is need to remove the catheter.

Intravenous Catheter

This catheter is mainly for Intravenous therapy for the transfer of fluid; like medications into and out of the body. It is also used to remove fluids out of the body. The use of this catheter can be seen in the collection of blood from a blood donor and transferred into a plastic bag for storage to be used later. To complete the cycle, a patient in need of blood transfusion gets it through this same catheter.

Cardiac Catheterization

This instrument can be very useful in the diagnosis and the treatment of several heart conditions. In a procedure known as cardiac catheterization, the heart professional, cardiologist inserts this device into the patient’s blood vessel which he gradually directs to the heart, a process which helps the cardiologist to have visual access to the heart and blood vessels detecting blockage or anomaly for the purpose of diagnosing and probably finding a suitable treatment for the patient.

More Uses

Catheters are also used in chorionic sampling. It is one method used for sample collection from the linking cord between mother and her unborn child, placenta. This sampling gives expectant parents information of any birth defect on their child. To test for any abnormality in the fetus, catheters are found useful in the extraction of amniotic fluid.


There might be complications with the use of any of these catheters though the complications vary and it is dependent on the catheter type. Some of the common problems encountered are allergy to the material used in producing the catheter, bleeding during the placement of catheter. Urinary catheter most times causes urinary tract infection. The doctor should discuss any risk involved in the use of any catheter before inserting it. That should answer the question of what is a catheter.

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