A urinary catheter is a flexible tube for draining urine from the bladder. It may be necessary for a person to use a urinary catheter if they have difficulty passing urine naturally.
There are 3 main types of catheters: indwelling catheters, intermittent catheters, and condom catheters.
The intermittent catheter, or a standard catheter, is a thin, flexible tube that a person temporarily inserts into their bladder through the urethra.
The external end of the tube may be left open, allowing the urine to drain into a receptacle. Another option is to attach the tube to an external drainage bag, which collects the urine.
An indwelling catheter is similar to an intermittent catheter but remains in place for a period of days or even weeks.
One end of the indwelling catheter has a deflated balloon attached. A healthcare provider will insert this end into the bladder and then inflate the balloon with sterile water to hold the catheter in place.
Condom catheters can be used by male patients with incontinence. There is no tube placed inside the penis. Instead, a condom-like device is placed over the penis. A tube leads from this device to a drainage bag. The condom catheter must be changed every day.