Bladder catheterization is used to do the following:
Obtain urine for examination
Measure residual urine volume
Relieve urinary retention Urinary Retention Urinary retention is incomplete emptying of the bladder or cessation of urination. Urinary retention may be Acute Chronic Causes include impaired bladder contractility, bladder outlet obstruction... read more or incontinence Urinary Incontinence in Adults Urinary incontinence is involuntary loss of urine; some experts consider it present only when a patient thinks it is a problem. The disorder is greatly underrecognized and underreported. Many... read more
Deliver radiopaque contrast agents or drugs directly to the bladder
Irrigate the bladder
Catheterization may be urethral or suprapubic.
Catheters vary by caliber, tip configuration, number of ports, balloon size, type of material, and length.
Caliber is standardized in French (F) units—also known as Charrière (Ch) units. Each unit is 0.33 mm, so a 14-F catheter is 4.6 mm in diameter. Sizes range from 12 to 24 F for adults and 8 to 12 F for children. Smaller catheters are usually sufficient for uncomplicated urinary drainage and useful for urethral strictures Urethral Stricture Urethral stricture is scarring that obstructs the anterior urethral lumen. Urethral stricture can be Congenital Acquired Anything that damages the urethral epithelium or corpus spongiosum can... read more and bladder neck obstruction Obstructive Uropathy Obstructive uropathy is structural or functional hindrance of normal urine flow, sometimes leading to renal dysfunction (obstructive nephropathy). Symptoms, less likely in chronic obstruction... read more ; bigger catheters are indicated for bladder irrigation and some cases of hemorrhage (eg, postoperatively or in hemorrhagic cystitis) and pyuria because clots could obstruct smaller caliber catheters.
Tips are straight in most catheters (eg, Robinson, whistle-tip) and are used for intermittent urethral catheterization (ie, catheter is removed immediately after bladder drainage). Foley (double-lumen latex) catheters have a straight tip and an inflatable balloon for self-retention. Other self-retaining catheters may have an expanded tip, shaped like a mushroom (de Pezzer catheter) or a 4-winged perforated mushroom (Malecot catheter); they are used in suprapubic catheterization or nephrostomy. Elbowed (coudé) catheters, which may have balloons for self-retention, have a bent tip to ease catheterization through strictures or obstructions (eg, prostatic obstruction).
Ports are present in all catheters used for continuous urinary drainage. Many catheters have ports for balloon inflation, irrigation, or both (eg, 3-way Foley).
Balloons on self-retaining catheters have different volumes, from 2.5 to 5 mL in balloons intended for use in children and from 10 to 30 mL in balloons used in adults. Larger balloons and catheters are generally used to manage bleeding; traction on the catheter pulls the balloon against the base of the bladder and puts pressure on vessels, decreasing bleeding but potentially causing ischemia. It is recommended that the balloon be filled with plain water only.
Stylets are flexible metal guides inserted through the catheter to give stiffness and to facilitate insertion through strictures or obstructions and should only be used by physicians experienced with the technique.
Catheter material chosen depends on the intended use. Plastic, latex, or polyvinyl chloride catheters are for intermittent use. Latex with silicone, hydrogel, or silver alloy–coated polymer (to diminish bacterial colonization) catheters are for continuous use. Silicone catheters are used in patients with latex allergy.
A urethral catheter can be inserted by any health care practitioner and sometimes by patients themselves. No prior patient preparation is required. The bladder is catheterized through the urethra unless the urethral route is contraindicated.
Relative contraindications are the following:
Urethral reconstruction or bladder surgery
Catheterization of the urethra begins with carefully cleaning the urethral meatus with an antibacterial solution. Then, using strict sterile technique, the catheter is lubricated with sterile gel and gently advanced through the urethra into the bladder. Lidocaine gel may be injected through the male urethra before the catheter is passed to help relieve discomfort. (See also How To Catheterize the Urethra in Women How To Do Urethral Catheterization in a Female Urethral catheterization is the standard method of accessing the urinary bladder. A flexible catheter is passed retrograde through the urethra into the bladder. Several types of catheters are... read more and How To Do Urethral Catheterization in Males How To Do Urethral Catheterization in a Male Urethral catheterization is the standard method of accessing the urinary bladder. A flexible catheter is passed retrograde through the urethra into the bladder. Several types of catheters are... read more .)
Complications of bladder catheterization include all of the following:
Urethral or bladder trauma with bleeding or microscopic hematuria (common)
Creation of false passages
Scarring and strictures
Bladder perforation (rare)
Paraphimosis Paraphimosis Phimosis is inability to retract the foreskin. Paraphimosis is entrapment of the foreskin in the retracted position; it is a medical emergency. Phimosis is normal in children and typically resolves... read more in uncircumcised males if the foreskin is not repositioned
Catheter-associated UTIs Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections A catheter-associated urinary tract infection (UTI) is a UTI in which the positive culture was taken when an indwelling urinary catheter had been in place for > 2 calendar days. Patients with... read more tend to increase morbidity, mortality, health care costs, and hospital length of stay. Recommendations for how to minimize the rates of these UTIs include the following:
Restricting the use of urethral catheterization to indications that are clearly medically necessary (eg, not solely to minimize the number of bedside visits by health care providers made to empty urinals)
Removing catheters as soon as possible
Using strictly aseptic technique during catheter insertion
Maintaining sterility and closure of the drainage system
Suprapubic catheterization via percutaneous cystostomy is done by a urologist or another experienced physician. No prior patient preparation is necessary. General indications include need for long-term bladder drainage and inability to pass a catheter through the urethra or contraindication to catheter use when bladder catheterization is necessary.
Contraindications include the following:
Inability to define bladder location clinically or ultrasonographically
An empty bladder
Suspected pelvic or lower abdominal adhesions (eg, after pelvic or lower abdominal surgery or radiation therapy)
After the abdomen above the pubic area is numbed with a local anesthetic, a spinal needle is inserted into the bladder; ultrasound guidance is used if available. A catheter is then placed through a special trocar or over a guide wire threaded through the spinal needle. Prior lower abdominal surgery and previous radiation therapy contraindicate blind insertion. Complications include UTI, intestinal injury, and bleeding.
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