How does a catheter work?

A catheter drains the bladder would be the short answer to the question ‘How does a catheter work.’ Of course, there are several different types of catheters, both for men and women, and they all work differently, though under the same basic principle of inserting a tube through the urethra and into the bladder to collect urine that will be deposited to a bag that the tube is attached to.  The above process is known as urinary catheterization, or cathing, for short. This process requires certain equipment, including sterile gloves, sterile drapes, cleansing solution, cotton swabs, forceps, sterile water, syringes, lubricant, collection bag and tubing, and of course, a catheter. 

The most common type of catheter is known as a Foley, or indwelling catheter. It consists of a balloon, a tube, a connection valve, a drainage tube, a drainage spout, and a drainage bag. The balloon is inflatable with the purpose of enlarging the narrow opening within the body. The inflated balloon keeps the catheter in place, and is deflated in order to remove it. An indwelling catheter is left in the bladder for either a short or a long period of time. Additionally, condom catheters are used in elderly men with dementia, and intermittent catheters are for patients who do not need to wear a catheter all of the time.

A Foley catheterization procedure is generally performed by a professional healthcare provider, who gathers the equipment, explains the process to the patient, helps the patient into a supine position spread legged position with feet together, opens the catheterization kit and catheter, prepares sterile field and sterile gloves, checks the balloon for patency, applies a generous coating of lubricant on the distal part of the catheter, applies sterile drape, and gets ready to insert the tube into the patient’s urethra. If the patient is a woman, the doctor separates the labia with his non-dominant hand. If the patient happens to be a man, the physician holds the penis using his non-dominant hand. In both instances, hand position is maintained until it’s time to inflate the balloon.
Next, the doctor handles the forceps with his dominant hand and cleans the peri-urethral mucosa with the cleansing solution. Then he takes the catheter with a gloved, sterile dominant hand, holding the end of it loosely coiled in his palm. In men, the penis should be lifted to a position that’s perpendicular to the patient’s body and applied mild upward traction. The doctor then spots the urinary meatus and carefully inserts till 1 or 2 inches beyond where urine is observed. The balloon is inflated with the correct quantity of sterile liquid, and the catheter is gently pulled until the balloon is against the bladder neck. The catheter is connected to the drainage system and secured to the abdomen or tight, while the drain bag is placed below level of the bladder. 
Like we implied, the answer to the question ‘How does a catheter work’ is not a simple one by any means. In addition to what we’ve already discussed, there is also the possibility of performing a self-catheterization. Both male and female self-catheterizations are similar to the procedure described above, the main difference being that the process is carried out by the patient themselves. And the main difference between a male and a female catheter is basically the length. Male catheters are usually 16 inches long, whereas female catheters are generally 6 to 8 inches long. People who are not able to self-catheterize usually opt for indwelling catheters, while those who do generally use intermittent catheters.