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Catheters

What Is a Foley Catheter and How Is It Used?

What Is a Foley Catheter and How Is It Used?

Image showing a Foley catheter

Foley catheters are one of the most common forms of urinary catheters today. Following certain surgeries or various medical diagnoses, you may find yourself with one of these medical devices inserted to help drain the urine from your bladder. 

But, what differentiates a Foley catheter from other catheter styles? Below, we’ll dive into what Foley catheters are, their benefits and uses, and how to adjust to using a Foley catheter on a regular basis.

What Is a Foley Catheter?

Foley catheters, or indwelling catheters, are a type of urinary catheter that is inserted into your bladder and left in place to continue draining the bladder of liquid. Patients who use Foley catheters can expect them to remain in place for an extended period of time, or until their physicians or healthcare providers deem it necessary for removal. 

This type of catheter style has a balloon filled with liquid attached to one end of the tube; this balloon helps the catheter to stay in place in the bladder. The other end of the tubing will generally be connected to a collection bag that holds urine for easy disposal.

What Are Foley Catheters Used For?

You may be wondering why a Foley catheter would be used over different forms of catheters. Foley catheters have a very important, long-term job. There are a variety of reasons a Foley catheter may be the option of choice selected by your healthcare provider; some of these reasons may include:

  • Urethral Obstruction: When there’s an anatomical condition that causes a blockage in the urethra that may be permanent, it may call for the placement of a Foley catheter. Urethral blockages can result from things like prostate hypertrophy or prostate cancer or enlargement, and these blockages may cause it to be difficult to place an in-and-out catheter by the user.
  • Urinary Retention: It’s common for healthcare providers to place Foley catheters when patients are having difficulty urinating on a long-term basis due to a decrease in urinary force, urinary hesitancy, or general straining when urinating.
  • Surgery: Recovery times can sometimes be lengthy and require patients to have assistance with urination. When deemed medically necessary, healthcare providers will insert Foley catheters to help patients with bladder drainage post surgery.
  • Diagnostic Sampling: This type of catheter style is sometimes used to help collect urine over a certain period of time for urine analysis by a physician or healthcare provider.
  • Nerve Damage: If there is permanent nerve damage in the bladder or urethral area, Foley catheters will sometimes be placed for long-term drainage assistance.
  • Urine Output Monitoring: It’s essential that urine is emptied from a bladder fully and regularly. If there is a concern by physicians that the bladder may not be emptying properly, they may insert a Foley catheter to monitor urine output.

What Can You Expect When Your Healthcare Provider Inserts a Foley Catheter?

Foley catheters are almost always placed by healthcare providers; this is not generally a self-cath style of catheter. When your catheter is being placed by your healthcare professional, you can generally expect the following:

  • For Women: For women, Foley catheters are placed through the urethra, which is located above the pelvis and directly above the vagina. The urethra area will be sanitized to prevent infection and the lubricated catheter will be inserted into the bladder by going through the urethra. A syringe is then used to inflate the balloon located in the bladder with water in order to keep it held in place. Lastly, a drainage bag will be connected to the catheter tube. Drainage bags can either be hooked to hospital beds or wheelchairs, or taped to the patients leg.
  • For Men: For men, Foley catheters are placed through the urethra by pulling the penis’ foreskin back. Men generally have a much longer urethra than women. Similarly to women, the male urethra area will be sanitized to prevent infection and the lubricated catheter will be inserted into the bladder by going through the urethra. A syringe is then used to inflate the balloon located in the bladder with water in order to keep it held in place. Lastly, a drainage bag will be connected to the catheter tube. Drainage bags can either be hooked to hospital beds or wheelchairs, or taped to the patients leg while the catheter remains inside the bladder.
Man holding urinary collection bag used with Foley catheter.

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Tips for Caring for Foley Catheters

Because Foley catheters are left inside for longer periods of time than other catheter styles, they can be more prone to causing infection for users. Because of this increased infection possibility, it’s essential that proper care is taken with maintaining Foley’s. Here are some tips to help with caring for your catheter:

  • Always pay attention to how often the urinary collection bag is emptied. Some bags can be emptied every two to three hours, while there are some larger versions that can last up to eight hours. Ask your healthcare professional or medical supplier for guidance.
  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing your catheter or collection bag.
  • Ensure a larger bag, sometimes referred to as a bed bag, is used at night to help with collection over a longer period of time while you’re sleeping.
  • Don’t allow your collection bag to hang above your bladder. To ensure proper collection and drainage, ensure your bag is hung below your bladder level.
  • Ensure the area around your catheter opening is always kept clean. You can easily keep the area clean by using soap and water or antiseptic wipes.

Potential Catheter Complications

Because Foley catheter users can be especially prone to infection, it’s important that special attention is paid to warning signs that could indicate complications. Here are some examples of problems that could indicate further issues are present as related to your catheter:

  • Long lasting or recurrent bladder spasms
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Strong smelling, thick, or cloudy urine
  • Urethral swelling
  • Skin sores
  • Bleeding around your catheter
  • Urine leakage surrounding your catheter area
  • Stones or sediment present in your urine
  • Little to no urine output
It’s important that these signs are paid attention to so that you can prevent further damage to your bladder or other complications from occurring, such as:
If you experience any of the symptoms above, please contact your healthcare provider right away to prevent further complications.
Image of man smiling in sunshine outside. Active Life Medical can help you with all of your Foley catheter needs.

How Can Active Life Medical Help with Foley Catheters?

When prescribed by your medical professional and deemed medically necessary, Foley catheters are helpful, safe, and comfortable. Plus, by teaming up with the experts at Active Life Medical’s, we can walk you through the process of getting your supplies billed directly and accurately to your insurance and ensure that you get the correct catheter supplies as directed by your physician. 

Following your Foley catheter placement, the last thing you want to worry about is maintaining the right supplies on hand when you need them or affording their cost. We strive to make the entire process easy and hassle-free for all of our customers. We can help by collecting all necessary paperwork from your doctors, coordinating billing with your insurance, and delivering your necessary catheters discreetly and quickly right to the convenience of your doorstep. Plus, we have one of the largest selections of catheters in the industry and only work with top brands, which means you have access to all the catheter supplies you need, when you need them. 

Your in good hands with Active Life – Give us a call at 800-319-2336 today so we can help.

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