The Foley catheter, also referred to as an indwelling catheter, remains in your body for a period of time and is often used to drain urine from the bladder following surgery. It may also be used if you have an infection, enlarged prostate, bladder stones, urinary incontinence or urinary retention.
About the Foley Catheter
A Foley catheter may be used for very ill or severely impaired patients when moving is painful or difficult to measure their urine output. A patient may also need a Foley catheter if he or she experiences urinary incontinence and bladder problems and lives a homebound life with little or no access to help.
A Foley catheter is typically inserted during an outpatient procedure performed by a physician. It may be used for a short amount of time while bladder function is regained, such as after a surgery, or for a longer period of time, such as after a spinal cord injury.
A Foley catheter may also be called a balloon catheter because it has a small balloon at the end that is filled with a sterile saline solution to keep the catheter in your bladder. When the catheter needs to be removed, the balloon is simply deflated.
A balloon catheter is inserted through the urethra with a tube connected to a collection bag for drainage. It is important the drainage bag is always kept below bladder level to prevent urine from draining back into the bladder and causing an infection. The drainage bag can be attached to the leg for freedom or you can use a larger overnight bag while sleeping or if you are bedridden.
Foley Catheter Safety
With a Foley catheter, it is important to drink at least 12 eight-ounce glasses of water a day to keep urine output over two quarts. Routinely checking urine color and odor is also recommended to help keep infections in check. The area around the Foley catheter must be cleaned at least twice a day and the catheter should be irrigated with sterile solution provided to you. If you are using an indwelling catheter for a long period of time, it must be changed every four weeks.
A suprapubic catheter is another type of indwelling catheter. A suprapubic catheter is inserted through the abdomen into the bladder just above the pubic bone (instead of through the urethra). It is a minor surgical procedure that requires only a local anesthetic injection.
The suprapubic catheter is a long-term solution for those who have urinary retention. Conditions that may cause urinary retention include a bladder infection, an obstruction in the bladder or injury to the bladder from trauma or surgery.
Those who have a spinal cord injury, enlarged prostate or diabetes may also have problems draining urine from the bladder and need a suprapubic catheter. Certain types of medications may also cause urinary retention.
A suprapubic catheter may also be inserted during certain surgical procedures as a post-operative bladder drainage solution.
Female Foley (Indwelling) Catheter
The female Foley catheter measures six inches long and comes in French sizes 12 Fr to 18 Fr. Sometimes it may be difficult to find the female urethra, especially in elderly women, as it may prolapse into the vaginal upper wall. The catheter administrator will identify landmarks for each woman and may require assistance for a clean and sterile insertion.
The Foley catheter has been referred to as a unisex catheter and may be used by both men and women. The male Foley catheter is longer but it may be used by women who have certain medical needs.
Male Foley (Indwelling) Catheter
The male Foley catheter is 16 inches long and comes in French sizes 12 Fr to 26 Fr. Lidocaine jelly may be used as an anesthetic to reduce discomfort due to the length of the male urethra and can help prevent urethral spasms.
The male Foley catheter has all the same characteristics as the female indwelling catheter, except it is a bit longer.
Foley Catheter Complications
The most common complication experienced from the use of a Foley catheter is a urinary tract infection. In many cases, bacteria will grow in the urine and never show any signs of infection or require treatment. Other times, the bacteria can cause symptoms including fever, a strong urine smell, and a change in the appearance of the urine. Antibiotics and changing the catheter are generally recommended as treatments.
On rare occasions, the bladder can become damaged or the bladder wall may be punctured when the Foley catheter is inserted. The wall of the urethra may also be damaged when the catheter balloon is inflated in the urethra. Due to the length of the male urethra, this is more common in men than in women.
Other complications resulting from long-term use of an indwelling catheter may include:
- Inflammation or infection of the kidneys
- Bladder or kidney stones
- Increased risk of bladder cancer
- Infection of the scrotum or prostate in men
- Hematuria (blood in the urine)
- Septicemia (blood infections)
If you think you are experiencing any complications, contact your doctor immediately.
Free Foley Catheter Delivery from FreedoMed
If you’re on Medicare and have a doctor’s prescription, you could get your Foley catheter supplies delivered right to your home for free! We’ll take care of all the paperwork for you, and shipping is free too! While the Foley catheter is generally inserted during a surgical procedure, you can get the supplies you need to safely maintain your indwelling catheter in your home from FreedoMed. To find out if you qualify, apply for free Foley catheter delivery from FreedoMed today!