Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility


An essential guide
Urinary catheters come in many sizes and types, including rubber, silicone or latex. They’re typically used when unable to urinate or to treat medical conditions such as:
  • Blocked flow of urine as a result of bladder stones, blood clots in the urine, or a narrowing of the urethra
  • Prostate surgery or surgery in the pelvic area, such as a hip fracture repair or hysterectomy
  • Injury to the nerves of the bladder caused by conditions such as Spinal Bifida, CVA , spinal cord injuries and childbirth
  • Medications that impair the ability of bladder muscles to squeeze such as antihistamines.

Most catheters are used for a short period of time

Elderly people and those with a permanent disability or severe illness may need to use urinary catheters for a longer period to avoid urine build up that – over time – can lead to infection or discomfort.

What are the different types of catheters ?

There are several types of catheters, depending on your needs for continence management: Intermittent Catheterisation, Single Urinary Catheterisation, External Catheters (Condom Catheters), Urethral Indwelling Catheterisation and Suprapubic Urinary Catheterisation.

Intermittent Catheterisation (IC) and Intermittent Self-Catheterisation (ISC)

Intermittent catheterisation is a first choice therapy for short and long term continence management, because it reduces the complications more frequently seen with indwelling catheters – such as infections, and blockage.

Single Urinary Catheterisation

This catheterisation is performed by a nurse in a hospital to empty a patient’s bladder or obtain a urine sample.

External Catheters (Condom Catheters)

Placed over the penis, external catheters are typically used for men who may or may not have continence problem and are less invasive than a standard catheter. Rather than a tube placed inside the penis, a device that looks like a condom is placed over the penis head. A tube leads from the condom device to a drainage bag.These catheters are generally more comfortable and carry a lower risk of infection than indwelling catheters. Condom catheters need to be changed daily and personal hygiene adhered to. Click here to view the external catheters available.

Urethral Indwelling Catheterisation

An indwelling catheter is an invasive medical procedure. The catheter is placed in through the urethra and remains in the bladder from anywhere between a few hours up to 12 weeks, creating a constant in/out flow.  A medically trained health professional will generally insert the catheter in hospital or a clinic and change it every 6 to 12 weeks or as required.

Suprapubic Urinary Catheterisation

A trained Urologist will insert this type of catheter into the bladder through a tiny hole in the abdomen. The catheter is changed every 6 to 12 weeks or as required.

What are the potential complications of urinary catheters?

The most common complication of all types of catheterisations are urinary tract infections (UTI). As the bladder is a sterile environment, introducing a catheter can increase the risk of bacterial contamination. However, urine retention has many more side effects than no catheter at all.

Indwelling urinary catheters are the leading cause of healthcare-associated urinary tract infections (UTIs) (van den Broek, et. al., 2011). It’s therefore crucial indwelling catheters are routinely cleaned to prevent infections. Symptoms of a UTI may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Burning of the urethra or genital area
  • Leaking of urine out of the catheter
  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Low back pain and achiness.

Other urinary catheter complications can include:

  • Allergic reaction to the material used in the catheter, such as latex
  • Bladder stones
  • Kidney damage (with long-term indwelling catheters)
  • Infection of urinary tract, kidney or blood (septicemia)

How to reduce the chance of developing an infection while using a catheter

The following personal hygiene practices should be followed

  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap before and after handling catheters.
  • Drink plenty of fluid each day (at least 8 glasses) to help prevent infection.
  • Maintain overall health and wellbeing by exercising (low impact) and eating a diet high in fibre (30 grams a day) to reduce the risk of constipation and maintain better continence.
  • For indwelling catheters, the drainage bag used to collect urine should be emptied when the bag is two thirds full. It should be cleaned using a plastic squirt bottle containing a mixture of 10% vinegar in water or plain soap and water. Ensure that the catheter is rinsed thoroughly afterwards
  • Regularly check catheter tubing for twists and kinks, and ensure urine collection bag remains below the level of the bladder preventing the urine flowing back into the bladder.

Independence Australia carries a wide range of urinary catheters and catheter supplies, including intermittent catheters, indwelling catheters and external (condom) catheters.

Click here to view our full urology and continence range.


More health advice

View our wide range of health advice, tips and recommendations by visiting our health articles or checking out our top health articles below.

How to manage urinary incontinence

How to Manage Urinary IncontinenceWhat is urinary incontinence?Urinary incontinence is when you accidentally wet yourself (urinate) through loss of bladder control. In Australia, urinary incontinence affects up to 10% of men and up to 38% of women.It can mean leaking...

Avoid dry skin after hand sanitiser

Moisturised hand after hand sanitising  Hand Sanitiser leaving your hands feeling dry? We explore the importance of keeping your hands moisturised.Hand sanitiser has recently become a hot ticket item, thanks to the arrival of COVID-19. As we have realised over...

This article is sponsored by Independence Australia, a social enterprise that provides choices for people living with a disability or other personal need, enabling them to regain and retain their independence within a supportive community.

If you would like to support the valuable work we do, you can help us to provide choice for people living with a disability or other personal need by Shopping online with us or Making a donation.