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What Are the Different Catheters Sizes and Why Are they Important?

What Are the Different Catheters Sizes and Why Are they Important?

Image showing three catheters. Different catheter sizes are used by different patients and play an important part in catheter health.

Different catheter sizes are determined by healthcare providers and play an important part in the catheter health of patients who need to cath. 

The sizing of catheters and their related components are calculated carefully by healthcare providers to ensure each patient’s comfort and overall bladder health can be properly maintained. Just as catheters are used for a variety of medical reasons, different catheter sizes are determined by a patient’s anatomical requirements and by what their medical needs and diagnoses are.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at different catheter sizes, why they’re important, and what issues can arise from incorrect sizing.

Why Are Different Catheter Sizes Important?

Your doctor or healthcare provider will help determine the right catheter size for you. Each and every catheter patient requires different catheter sizes, and it’s important that the sizing is determined correctly because it can directly impact your health. For instance, if a catheter is too big can lead to increased pain or urethral damage. Alternatively, if a catheter is too small it can lead to urine passing too slowly from the bladder to the collection bag.

Different Catheter Sizes for Insertion

Catheters and their various components are measured in a few key ways by healthcare professionals and medical device suppliers. For insertion lengths, the sizing is a little more restricted, but will vary between men, women, and children generally as follows:

  • Men: Generally 16″ in length
  • Woman: Usually shorter in length between 6-8 inches due to shorter urethra
  • Children: Can range from 10-12 inches in length

External Catheter Sizing

Male and female external catheters have different catheter sizes due to the fact that they are not placed internally inside the urethra. 

  • Male External Different Catheter Sizes: Condom catheters fit around the head of the penis and connect directly to the drainage tube and collection bag. To find the correct size, the circumference of the head of the penis is measured and then divided by 3.14. The end resulting number from this calculation will allow healthcare providers and catheter users to correctly choose the size they need in accordance with the individual sizing guide provided by the catheter manufacturer. While sizes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, they are all listed in millimeter size measurements. 
  • Female External Different Catheter Sizes: Female external catheters are generally much easier to size and are often “one size fits all.” Check with your physician or medical supplier for more information on different female external catheters available to you.

Different Catheter Sizes for Tubing

When the external diameter of the catheter tubing needs to be determined, a “French” sizing system is used. Catheter French sizes are used universally and can be determined by multiplying catheter diameter length by the number three. French catheter sizes are as follows:

  • 6 Fr
  • 8 Fr
  • 10 Fr
  • 12 Fr
  • 14 Fr
  • 16 Fr
  • 18 Fr
  • 20 Fr
  • 22 Fr

To help healthcare providers and medical suppliers ensure the correct size is provided, a universal color coding system is used. The color coding can be especially important when it comes to matching the catheter tubing up with the correct catheter funnel ends that connect to drainage bags.

So, why are urinary catheter French sizes so important? Correct tube sizing is critical for the following reasons: 

  • Catheter tubing that is too large can cause significant urethral pain
  • Catheter tubing that is too small can lead to inadequate bladder drainage that takes too long to complete the emptying process
  • Leakage can occur with catheter tubing that is too small
  • Trauma can occur due to catheter tubing that is too large
French size chart for catheters for men and women. If you're wondering, "Where can I buy a catheter?" Active Life Medical can help.

Find the right catheter size for you. Complete the form below.

Different Sizes for Drainage Bags

Urine drainage bags come in all sorts of different sizes to accommodate different lifestyles and drainage needs. The urine bags that are kept on the body are generally on the smaller side and can range in size as follows: 

  • 250 ml
  • 350 ml
  • 500 ml
  • 600 ml
  • 750 ml
  • 1000 ml

Bed drainage bags can be used at night time in order to collect larger amounts while patients are asleep; these bags will generally range in capacity between 2000 ml to 4000 ml. 

Watch for These Symptoms

When using different catheter sizes or styles, it’s imperative that you monitor for any symptoms out of the ordinary and report them to your physician or health care provider right away. Some of these symptoms can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Pain
  • Skin sores or lesions around the catheter
  • Bleeding around or inside the catheter
  • Recurring bladder spasms
  • Sediment inside the catheter bag
  • Urethral swelling
  • Strong smelling, thick, or cloudy urine
  • Too little urine output
  • Urine leakage around the site of the catheter

Consulting with your healthcare provider at the earliest onset of these symptoms can help further complications such as: 

  • Bladder stones
  • Injury to your urethra
  • Kidney infections
  • Blood infections
  • Kidney damage
  • Bladder cancer
  • Blood in the urine

It’s important to not also that keeping discussions open with your physician on your catheter sizing is important. Only you know what your comfort level feels like or if you are experiencing any pain. When cathers are sized correctly, they should be relatively comfortable during daily use. However, if you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor regarding any other sizing options available to you.

Image showing a couple walking in a field together. Different catheter sizes are used for patients to support proper bladder health.

How Active Life Medical Can Help with Different Catheter Sizes

When it’s determined by your healthcare provider that you require the use of catheters for proper bladder drainage, they will also be able to help you determine the size that best works for your needs. Once you have this information, the catheter supply experts at Active Life Medical can quickly help locate the size you need and in the brand you trust. Plus, we’ll coordinate all the paperwork you need with your physician, handle your insurance billing from start to finish, and deliver any of the different catheter sizes you need discreetly and directly to your door. Give us a call today at 800-319-2336 and get started with your catheter supplies.

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