What is a Medical Catheter?

Pamela Pleasant

A medical catheter is typically used following a surgery or injury to collect fluid from a specific area. It is generally a flexible plastic tubing that is inserted into the skin. In some cases, a glass or metal tubing can also be used, depending on the circumstances. There are many medical conditions and ailments that require a medical catheter. In some cases, they are needed to avoid a life-threatening situation, but they can also be used for convenience.

An external male catheter.
An external male catheter.

A cardio medical catheter is used when there are problems with the heart. For example, an after-load catheter is used to relieve the aortic pressure around the heart. A catheter can be inserted through a vein and into the heart area for diagnostic purposes. They can be used to help blood circulation and to stimulate the heart. This type of medical catheter can also be used to drain mucus or other fluids away from the heart area.

Urinary catheters connect to an external bag where urine is collected.
Urinary catheters connect to an external bag where urine is collected.

A balloon type of medical catheter is commonly used to drain urine from the body. It is inserted into the urethra to allow urine to drain, surpassing the bladder and collecting in a plastic bag. This catheter is typically used following a surgery on the bladder or any surrounding organs. The risk of infections can then be greatly reduced because no urine or bacteria can enter the site. A balloon medical catheter can also be inserted in order to fill the bladder with fluid for medical testing procedures.

A peripheral venous catheter.
A peripheral venous catheter.

A double-chamber medical catheter has two functions. It not only collects fluid from a specific area but it also can deliver essential medications to an area. Instead of only one tube opening, it has two separate tubes that can be placed in the vicinity of each other. This eliminates the need for separate injections and medicine can be delivered directly to the area. Eliminating traumatic procedures is also much more comfortable for the patient.

A urinary catheter.
A urinary catheter.

There are side effects that can be caused by the use of any type of catheter. Cardio catheters can cause internal bleeding if they are not removed correctly. Urinary catheters can cause tearing and urethra damage if they are not lubricated correctly. When a catheter is not occasionally moved or properly lubricated, the surrounding skin can grow in around it, making removal a difficult and painful experience. Catheters can also be the main cause of infections.

A 3-way catheter is used to treat bladder infections.
A 3-way catheter is used to treat bladder infections.
Urinary catheters can result in tearing or urethra damage if not used with a lubricant.
Urinary catheters can result in tearing or urethra damage if not used with a lubricant.

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