We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Catheter Tube?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A catheter tube is a hollow tube that can be inserted into a body cavity to drain or inject fluids. These are usually thin and flexible, and are often used to drain urine from the bladder, open a vein or artery in or near the heart, or to drain fluids from abscesses in other body cavities and organs. Doctors may also place catheter tubes to measure blood pressure or intracranial pressure in the skull.

In one form or another, catheters have been used since ancient times. The Syrians used reeds — while the Greeks used metal tubes — inserted in the urethra to drain the bladder. The tubes have been used in modern medicine since the 1860s. The first modern, disposable catheter was invented in the 1940s.

Heart catheters are usually inserted into either side of the heart from the groin or arm. Doctors guide the catheter into the vessels of the heart using an x-ray machine that allows them to see the process. Once the catheter tube is inserted, doctors can collect blood, measure pressure and oxygen, and examine the arteries for signs of disease or defect.

Drainage catheters are usually inserted, via needle, directly into the body where fluid has collected. Abscesses and cysts often need to be drained in this way to treat infection and clear the swelling. Doctors and surgeons also use drainage catheters to remove accumulated fluid from the lungs, chest cavity, or spinal column. Thin catheter tubes are also used to administer anesthesia and other medications, particularly in the epidural space in the spinal canal.

Urinary catheters, or Foley catheters, are extremely common — both for patients admitted to a hospital or other health facility, and for those at home. A catheter tube may be inserted in the bladder for short or long-term use due to urinary incontinence or leakage, dementia, spinal cord injury, surgery, or any other condition that makes it difficult or impossible for a patient to control urination.

Typically, a urinary catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra, though it can also be placed directly, through a small hole in the abdomen. The catheter tube has a small balloon at the end to prevent it from sliding out of the bladder. This can be deflated, by a valve, when it is time to remove or replace the catheter.

Some urinary catheter tubes are attached to a condom-like sheath that is placed over the penis. This type of catheter is often used for men with dementia to prevent the patient from removing the tube. Patients who use urinary catheters at home must be extremely careful to keep the tube clean and sterile, and must follow their doctors’ instructions on when to remove and change the catheter.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.