Catheter Basics: The Difference between Condom, Intermittent and Indwelling

There are lots of different kinds of catheters out there. Whether you’re new to catheterization or trying to find a new method, this blog will give you a high-level overview of each type.

Your doctor will advise you on which one is best for you based on your lifestyle, medical needs and preference. Use this information to compare the different kinds so you can make an informed decision.

Condom Catheters

What is a condom catheter?

Also referred to as external catheters, condom catheters are for males only. They’re made up of a sheath that rolls on to the penis, similar to a condom, and are attached with an adhesive. Urine is collected in a bag, which is emptied periodically.

What are some of the pros of external catheters?

  • Lower risk of infection – compared to an indwelling catheter,
  • Non-invasive – there’s no need for surgery or insertion into the urethra.

What are some of the cons?

  • Possible skin damage – it not properly attached, it can irritate the skin.
  • Keeping it in place – it’s possible for the condom to shift and cause leakage.

Will I have to monitor my fluid intake?

Yes, but you shouldn’t limit it. It’s recommended that you drink a lot of fluids to keep your urine flowing.

Intermittent Catheterization

What is intermittent catheterization?

Intermittent catheterization (also known as self-catheterization) involves draining the bladder on a regular schedule. The catheter is inserted into the urethra, and the contents of the bladder are drained directly into the toilet. The catheter is then removed.

What are some of the pros of self-catheterization?

  • No collection bag – since it’s drained in the toilet, there is no need to keep a bag to collect urine.
  • Odor control – urine isn’t kept in a bag on the body, which reduces the potential for odors to form.
  • Lower infection risk – like a condom catheter, self-cathing doesn’t carry the same risk of infection as indwelling catheter.

What are some of the cons?

  • Urethra swelling – inserting and removing the catheter can cause the urethra to swell.
  • Learning curve – finding the urethra and inserting the catheter can be challenging at first.

Will I have to monitor my fluid intake?

Yes. Because your bladder is being emptied on a regular basis, you’ll have to keep tabs on how much you’re drinking. Your doctor will advise you on the best amount for you.

Indwelling Catheters

What is an indwelling catheter?

An indwelling catheter is a catheter that is inserted into the bladder. There are two ways that it can be inserted: through the urethra (usually called a “Foley” catheter) and through the abdomen (usually called a suprapubic tube). This is often the last resort when other catheters haven’t worked.

What are some of the pros of indwelling catheters?

  • Convenience – they work on their own and require less work than condom and indwelling catheters.
  • Lower risk of accidents – indwelling catheters don’t come with the same risks of spillage as condom catheters.

What are some of the cons?

  • Odor – many users report a light smell, which may come from the collection bag.
  • Highest risk of infection – chronic infections are most common with this catheter type.

Will I have to monitor my fluid intake?

Not if you regularly drink plenty of fluids. Like a condom catheter, it is recommended that you drink lot of water throughout the day.

The best way to find the right catheter is to do your research, talk openly with your doctor and think about which one fits best with your typical routine.

Do you have any questions on catheters or other urological supplies? Post them below, and we’ll address them in a future post.


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