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Urinary Catheter Types and Sizes

There are many three main types of catheters—intermittent catheters, indwelling catheters, and external catheters. Catheters sizes are measured by a french scale. This article will help you understand the different kinds of catheters, and figure out what is your catheter size in french scale.

What is a urinary catheter?

A urinary catheter is a hollow tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine out of the bladder. Urinary catheters are most commonly used to treat urinary retention or urinary incontinence.

Intermittent catheters are used by people with urinary retention when people cannot voluntarily void their bladder or void completely. External catheters are used when people have urinary incontinence, which is when urine leaks out uncontrollably. Indwelling catheters can be used for both urinary retention and incontinence. 

What are the different types of catheters?

Intermittent Catheters

Intermittent catheters are single-use catheters that are inserted into the bladder for a short duration to empty the bladder. They are used several times a day whenever the bladder becomes full. 

A variety of conditions may lead someone to use intermittent catheters, which include having urinary retention, neurogenic bladder, MS, spinal cord injuries (SCI), bladder exstrophy, or undergoing a urinary diversion surgery.

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Indwelling Catheters

Indwelling catheters are flexible medical grade rubber or plastic tubes that are inserted into the bladder and made to remain there to provide continuous urinary drainage. Indwelling catheters are commonly used to empty the bladder when someone cannot stand up to go to the bathroom, or when they’ve lost control of their bladder, such as when they’re receiving surgery or in recovery immediately after surgery. 

External Catheters

External catheters, or condom catheters, are used by men to treat urinary incontinence. This type of catheter consists of a flexible sheath that slides over the penis just like a condom with a tube connected to a bag. Many men find this style to be a great alternative to more invasive catheters, such as indwelling catheters that require insertion through the urethra. However, external catheters are only used for urinary incontinence, and not urinary retention. They are a good alternative if a man can urinate on their own or in case there is spontaneous leakage or incontinence. If the person cannot urinate on their own, then this would not work. 


What is the french scale for catheters? 

Catheter French Scale

French sizes for catheters

1 “French” or “Fr” is equivalent to 0.33 mm = .013″ = 1/77″ in diameter. The size in French units is roughly equal to the circumference of the catheter in millimeters. French catheters are color-coded. 20 French is a yellow catheter.

14 to 16 french catheters are most commonly used by adult males, and 10-12fr are used by adult females.

Women’s catheters are usually 5-6 inches long whereas men’s catheters are 16-inch long. 

Try CompactCath’s intermittent catheters!

CompactCath produces catheters that are compact, mess-free, non-touch, and pre-lubricated. They are available for both men and women in sizes 10-16fr.

straight female intermittent catheter

CompactCath is pocket-sized and easy to use. It’s made out of high-quality PVC plastic that will not kink when coiled. It is FDA cleared in 2014, pre-lubricated with anti-bacterial silicone oil, holds 6 patents, and two design awards. CompactCath comes with funnel-control, leading to minimal urine spill and mess, all while fitting in your pocket. 

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