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Common Questions About Intermittent Catheterization Answered

We’re sharing answers to some of the most common questions we hear about intermittent catheterization. Whether you’ve just started self-cathing or you’re just interested in learning more, here are some topics to get you started. Be sure to consult your healthcare professionals before beginning any new treatment or procedure. 

Q. Why is Catheterization Needed? 

A. Catheterization is needed for those who cannot empty the bladder on their own. There are a variety of conditions where self-catheterization may be necessary:

  • Spinal Cord Injury 
  • Traumatic Brain Injury 
  • Spina Bifida 
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Enlarged Prostate 

Q. Do MTG Catheters contain DEHP? 

A. All MTG catheters are DEHP-free and use medical-grade quality materials.
DEHP, an abbreviation for di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, is a manufactured chemical that is added to plastics to make them flexible. This chemical has been associated with birth defects. 

Q. What is the importance of fire polished eyelets for intermittent catheters? 

A. When the eyelets, or drainage holes, of intermittent catheters are fire polished, they are rounded to ensure comfort and to reduce potential trauma during catheterization. 

Q. What do the different catheter lengths mean? 

A. MTG catheters are available in a variety of lengths to better suit the needs of each individual patient. Generally, pediatric catheters are 10 inches in length, female catheters are 6 to 7.5 inches, and male catheters are 16 inches in length. 

Sometimes female catheter users feel more comfortable using male catheters for the extra length they provide, but extra care should be taken to ensure you do not insert the catheter too far into the bladder and damage the lining of the bladder.

Q. What does “French size” mean? 

A. French size is the outer diameter of a urinary catheter tube. 1Fr = .33mm, so a 12FR catheter has a diameter of approximately 4mm. 

Q. When should I use a larger French size catheter? 

A. In general, it is a good idea to consider a larger French size when you experience urine leakage around the outside of the catheter tubing while cathing. If you are thinking about changing French sizes, always have a conversation with your doctor first. 

Q. What is the difference between a coude tip and a straight tip catheter? 

A. A coude catheter has a slight bend at the end and is usually prescribed to allow for passage through tight spots within the urethra or to pay beyond an enlarged prostate. Ask your doctor if you think a coude tipped catheter might be beneficial for you.

Q. When using a coude tip catheter, does it matter how it is inserted? 

A. Yes, for use by males, the coude tip should be upward during insertion to ensure it easily enters the bladder. Coude tip catheters will have an indicator notch or arrow on the funnel denoting the bend direction. Always check with your doctor for proper insertion instructions. 

Q. What should I do if I have difficulty inserting the catheter?  

A. Before beginning to self-cath, try taking a few deep breaths to allow your body to relax and make sure you are in a comfortable position. Never force your catheter. If you are having trouble inserting your catheter, step away for a few minutes and then try again.

Q. What if I can’t wash my hands well before I cath? 

A. If you frequently go places that don’t have soap and water available, you should try using a closed system catheter. When used properly, you never touch the catheter tubing, preventing contamination and reducing the risk of UTIs. 

Q. Can MTG catheters be reused? 

A. No, it is not recommended to reuse catheters. The process of washing and reusing catheters can increase the risk of UTIs. Because of this, it is more beneficial to use sterile, one-time-use catheters to prevent bacterial contamination.

Q. Do I need to dispose of my used catheters in a certain way? 

A. You can dispose of your used catheters in the trash, but if there is blood, you should dispose of your used catheters in a biohazard waste bin.

Q. Do I have to use the intermittent catheter that I was trained to use by my nurse, or can I experiment with other brands and types? 

A. There are many styles of intermittent catheters and you may find that other products may be easier to use, less painful, has better packaging, etc. Samples of catheters are available from several distributors and manufacturers. MTG offers free samples. If you decide to change brands, a new prescription may be necessary, so please speak with your doctor about other available catheter options. 

Q. Why are most catheters on the market today made of plastic, not rubber? 

A. While red rubber catheters were the norm long ago, today most doctors prescribe plastic catheters. Plastic is latex-free and less likely to cause an allergic reaction. If sensation is an issue, ask MTG for samples of our soft catheters. 

Q. Is there anything wrong with using red rubber catheters? 

A. While red rubber catheters are soft and pliable, most contain latex, and latex allergy development can be a concern. There are soft vinyl catheters available that feel like red rubber and don’t contain latex. 

Q. If my medical supplier says that my catheter brand is no longer covered by my insurance, what should I do? 

A. Call your catheter manufacturer to verify accuracy of the claim. 

Q. How often should I catheterize, or should I just do it the number of prescribed times per day? 

A. The frequency of catheterization depends on the individual and factors such as the amount of fluids you drink, medication you are taking, and your condition. To prevent overdistension (stretching) of the bladder, you should try to catheterize as close to the prescribed times as possible. 

Q. Why do doctors usually write prescriptions for intermittent catheterization to occur 4 or 6 times per day, but not 5? 

A. Since there are 24 hours in a day, 24 is easily divisible by 4 or 6, so you can catheterize at the same time each day. An example would be 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm, 11pm, 3am…

Q. Should I keep track of the amount of fluid I void? 

A. Yes! It is important to know how much you void when you drain your bladder. Clinicians will want volume outputs to be below a certain level to avoid overstretching of the bladder. 

Q. How much urine should I void when I cath?

A. For intermittent catheterization, adults should void no more than 600ml. If you are consistently voiding more than 600ml, ask your doctor if you should be catheterizing more often. 

Q. Should the amount of fluid I drink affect the number of times I self-cath? 

A. Yes! When speaking with your urologist about your bladder management program, make sure to let them know about your fluid intake as well as discuss your catheterization schedule. If you recently increased your fluid intake, you may have to increase how often you self-cath. 

Q. If I get a UTI, can’t I just call my doctor to get another prescription of antibiotics? 

A. If you call your doctor to get antibiotics, but don’t provide them with a urine specimen, that infection will not count when need to prove UTI recurrence to your insurance.

How often you get UTIs can matter when medically qualifying for use of closed system catheters.

If you have additional questions about self-catheterization, our customer service team will be happy to answer your general questions about intermittent catheterization. If you have specific questions about your care, please ask your doctor.