How Does a Catheter Work?


Quick Answer

A catheter is inserted through the urethra or a small opening in the abdomen to the bladder, allowing urine to exit the bladder, states NHS Choices. There are three types of catheters available; however, each one serves the same purpose of removing urine from the bladder.

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Full Answer

An intermittent urinary catheter is a catheter that is inserted through the urethra. It remains long enough to remove urine from the bladder, explains the NHS Choices website. One end of the catheter is open, which allows the urine to drain into a bedpan or toilet. This type of catheter is used for a one-time method, such as collecting a urine specimen, or it can be used multiple times a day to relieve a full bladder.

An indwelling urinary catheter is inserted through the urethra but has a balloon at the end, states NHS Choices. Once the catheter enters the bladder, the balloon is filled with saline to keep the catheter from falling out with movement. Urine then travels down the catheter tube to a collection bag that can be strapped to the patient's leg or to the bed or stand. The collection bag is then emptied as needed.

A suprapubic catheter is inserted through an incision in the abdomen and then enters the bladder, says NHS Choices. Urine drains from the catheter into a collection bag, which is emptied when needed.

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