What is a Foley Catheter?
A Foley catheter, also called an "indwelling catheter" is a thin flexible tube often made of silicone, latex, or a silicone coated latex. The end of the thin tube has a balloon. Once inserted into the bladder, the balloon is filled with a sterile water. This prevents the catheter from being removed and holds the Foley catheter in place inside the bladder. Once placed inside the bladder, the Foley catheter will need to be attached to tubing and connected to a drain bag. The best way to avoid infections is to always wash your hands before and after touching any part of your Foley catheter.
When Should I Use a Foley Catheter?
Due to a medical problem, your body is having difficulty emptying your bladder of urine. This is why your doctor has suggested you use a Foley catheter since the Foley will act as a drain for your bladder so you will be able to rid yourself of urine. A Foley catheter should only be used under your Doctor's supervision. Foley catheters have the potential to cause complications if they are not used properly. Remember to use care when attending your Foley catheter. Always wash your hands before touching the Foley, tubing, or drainage bags. It is also a great idea to use a Bard Statlock Stabilization Device to avoid your Foley catheter being accidentally pulled from your bladder and urethra. Forced dislodging of the catheter can cause damage and needs to be avoided. Bard Medical has published a helpful guide to using Foley Catheters that I highly recommend. I think it clearly explains some of the details that are specific to indwelling catheters.
- Pre-filled Syringe (sterile water)
- Nitrile, Latex, or Latex-Free Exam Gloves
- BZK antiseptic towelettes or BZK Swab sticks
- Waterproof underpad (also known as Chux)
- Sterile surgical lubricant in gram packets
Drainage Bag - overnight drainage bags for sleeping, smaller leg bags for moving about in the daytime, worn on the calf or the thigh.
- Latex-Free Silicone (can be stiffer and firmer, perfect for those sensitive to latex)
- Silicone Coated Latex (silicone coating helps offset potential allergies associated with latex. Not for use for those with severe latex allergy)
- Latex (the most pliable catheter, moves inside urethra easily, tends to be more comfortable)
- Infection Control with Silver/Hydrogel (Antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral hydrogel silver content with lubricious coating for low friction comfort)
Foley Catheters come in a standard over-all length but the diameter of the catheter varies. The size is referred to as a "french size". Smaller French sizes are usually more comfortable for the patient, but larger sizes may be needed to drain urine that is thicker or carries higher levels of sediment. Sometimes the catheter will need a higher French size to help it stay in place. The range in French sizes is 12FR to 48FR. The lower the number, the smaller the diameter. Most people start with either a 14FR or 16FR and then go up from there as needed.