If a person experiences bladder dysfunction, it can severely affect one’s independence, self-esteem and confidence, and in worse cases, suffer skin damage, urosepsis (infection of the blood) and poor kidney health. Fortunately, bladder dysfunction can be managed through the use of a catheter. Depending on your medical condition, circumstances and personal needs, there is a method of catheterisation that is right for you.

External catheter

An external catheter, also known as a condom catheter or male catheter, consists of a sheath made out of PVC, latex or silicone, with an adhesive to attach it to the penis. What differentiates it from the other catheter types is that nothing is inserted into the urethra, everything remains outside of the body. There are some options for female external catheters, but they are uncommon.

Pros and cons of external catheter

External catheters are typically more comfortable and less invasive than most other catheterisation methods. They allow you to function normally, with no awkward insertion procedure to perform. The main disadvantage comes from incorrect use, either attaching it too tightly as to blister the penis or too loose that it dislodges or leaks.

Intermittent catheter

Intermittent catheters are inserted through the urethra and into the bladder. The idea is to aim the free-end at the toilet, and urinating as you normally would. They are disposable, single-use tubes that come sealed, with no valve or drainage bag. The procedure is relatively simple and is performed as and when the need arises throughout the day.

Pros and cons of intermittent catheter

Intermittent catheters are fairly easy to use, with no need for a leg bag and its accompanying inconveniences. You only use the catheter whenever you go to the toilet, and has a lower risk of infection than the other types and has the least effect upon your daily activities. Technically, intermittent catheters don’t have any disadvantages, although the process of catheterisation is inherently uncomfortable.

Indwelling catheter

When external or intermittent catheters are inadequate, an indwelling catheter may be prescribed. These catheters are similarly inserted through the urethra, but with an inflatable balloon at the bladder end to keep the catheter in position. The outside end of the catheter leads either to a collection bag or has a valve so that urine can be emptied straight into the toilet.

Pros and cons of indwelling catheter

Indwelling catheters are a more permanent solution for patients. Once inserted, there are fewer complications, and you’ll have the freedom to carry on your daily activities as normal. They are also relatively easy to maintain, not having to replace the whole catheter every time.

One main disadvantage associated with indwelling catheter is the high risk of infection. Many patients with indwelling catheter suffer Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTIs), which are painful and can be life-threatening if left untreated.

Suprapubic catheter

A suprapubic catheter is inserted into the bladder through a surgical cut below the navel, bypassing the urethra. This is done under a local or light general anaesthetic. Suprapubic catheters are sometimes prescribed when the patient has a damaged urethra, when the patient can’t self-catheterise, when one requires long-term catheterisation and are sexually active, or after a gynaecological operation.

Risk of infection from catheterisation

As useful as catheters are for relieving dysfunctional bladders in patients, one disadvantage is that they are prone to infection. As indwelling tubes provides a route for bacteria or fungi to enter the bladder, the microbes can multiply and lead to what is called a Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI). CAUTI is one of the most common infections a person can contract in the hospital, and indwelling catheters are a major cause of CAUTI although they also occur with suprapubic catheter use.

In the UK, CAUTIs also cost the NHS millions of pounds each year, due to factors such as hospital admissions, doctor and nurse time, antibiotics, lab cultures and associated complications. Tackling CAUTIs is something that UroShield can help.


UroShield lowers the risk of CAUTIs

With indwelling, and to a lesser extent suprapubic catheters, the risk of infection can sometimes offset their advantages. However, there may be a non-invasive way to reduce the chance of infection.

UroShield is a compact external medical device that generates low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound waves to prevent bacterial biofilm from forming on catheters. The action of the ultrasonic waves run along the full length of the catheter, up into the balloon and down into the bag, both on the outside and inside surfaces of the catheter. The ultrasound gently vibrates the catheter to stop the bacteria from adhering to the catheter and forming the biofilm – preventing infections from developing.

UroShield is backed by a wealth of medical and scientific data, follow this link to find out how UroShield works.

You can also get in touch on 020 8773 7844 or fill out our Online Form.



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This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.