What is an indwelling catheter?

Indwelling catheters, also known as Foley catheters, are thin, flexible, hollow tubes made of latex or silicone, with a balloon on one end. After passing the catheter through the urethra and into the bladder, the balloon is inflated with a small amount of water to hold the catheter in place.

Indwelling catheters are used to drain urine from the bladder into a urinary drainage bag. They are long-term catheters that are typically kept inside the bladder for one month before changing. Usually, a health care professional or doctor will insert and remove an indwelling catheter. Two types of drainage bags are available. One type is designed to be strapped to the leg and hidden under pants or a skirt. The second and larger type is designed to hang on the bed or wheelchair.

For patients who have some sort of obstruction that does not allow the flow of urine through the urethra, a suprapubic catheter may be recommended. A suprapubic catheter is surgically inserted into the bladder through a small incision in the abdomen to allow for draining the bladder. The thin, flexible tube connects the bladder to a drainage collection bag outside the body.


Common types of Foley catheters

Two-way – Opposite of the balloon end of the catheter tube, there are two ports – one for draining urine and the other for inserting the fluid that fills the balloon.

Three-way – Along with the two ports listed above, this specialized catheter includes a third port that’s used to flush out the bladder or for inserting medication.



Your doctor will choose the smallest-sized catheter based on your urinary health needs. Catheters are sized using the French catheter gauge, noted generally as “fr.” The smaller the number, the smaller the diameter of the catheter.



A health care professional will insert your Indwelling catheters. Water-soluble lubricant jelly is often used to make the insertion process more comfortable. Once the catheter is inserted, your health care professional will inflate the balloon with water, which helps keep the catheter in the proper position within the bladder and prevents it from slipping out.



Related articles:
Common questions and answers about urinary catheters
Three reasons you should avoid reusing catheters
Catheters and health care coverage