Catheter supplies are used to drain fluids such as urine or blood and to administer medications for treatments such as chemotherapy or pain management. They are also used in diagnostic tests in areas such as the heart. Catheter supplies are better known for draining urine, but there are many other applications for the hollow, narrow tube.
For urinary tract problems, catheter supplies include a straight catheter tube used to drain urine on a one-time basis; a coude catheter, which is used as a male catheter and has an angle toward the end to move over a prostate, and a three-way catheter, which is used to flush out the bladder after surgery or trauma. Another type of catheter is a split catheter, which has two openings, called lumens, instead of one. A Foley catheter is intended for long-term use and has an inflatable balloon at the end to hold it in place in the bladder. It is accompanied by a drainage bag to hold the urine.
The risk for catheter infection is high, and it is typically considered inevitable for patients who require a long-term, indwelling bladder catheter. Sterile technique must be used when handling any catheter supplies, although it is not enough to prevent infection. Regular catheter changes and increased fluid intake can reduce the risk, if not eliminate it.
Other types of catheter supplies besides a bladder catheter deal with testing and treating heart problems. An angioplasty catheter, or percutaneous catheter, is used in addition to a catheter sheath to fix blockages in the veins or arteries. Often, a stent will be placed at the same time in order to keep the vein or artery open. This type of surgery has become quite commonplace and has a high success rate.
These days, a tiny catheter is used for intravenous fluids instead of a rigid needle. This is especially beneficial to patients who require long-term treatment through an intravenous, or IV, tube, as it is more comfortable and less likely to cause problems. Not only does it usually feel better for patients, but the catheter supplies used are typically easier to place in smaller or compromised veins that appear in children or the elderly.
Catheter supplies have made many procedures possible due to the flexibility of the tube, which is typically made from rubber, latex, or silicone. It can be used for patients who have a latex or rubber allergy. The basic design of flexible catheters has not changed since its invention by Benjamin Franklin, and it makes many medical procedures possible today.