Learn about Types Of Catheters. A catheter is a flexible, hollow tube that is placed inside or on the body. They are used in medical procedures and treatments. The general public is probably most familiar with a couple of types of catheters. Primarily, the urinary catheters and cardiac catheters or ‘cardiac caths.’ As the term urinary catheter implies, these types of catheters are named and classified by design and designation. Therefore, in order to list types of catheters, the specific uses must be inspected.
Continuing with the urinary catheter example, a urinary catheter is designed for emptying urine from the bladder. This is accomplished by inserting the catheter up the urethra into the bladder so that urine may flow through unobstructed. There are three types of urinary catheters: indwelling, intermittent, and external. Indwelling catheters can be inserted through the urethra, called a Foley, or surgically through the abdomen, called suprapubic. Intermittent catheters are a type of indwelling, but they are disposable and designed for single use. External catheters are fitted to the penis on a man and placed against the vagina of a womanóthese devices are noninvasive.
Cardiac catheterization most often refers to angioplasty or angiography. Angiography is a diagnostic procedure used to determine the patency of a vessel. This is accomplished by inserting a catheter and guide wire to the target region, injecting a contrast agent through the catheter, and taking an X-ray. Angioplasty uses a similar technique, but its purpose is to open a closed vessel. This is achieved with a balloon catheter. This is inserted into the body, usually through the femoral artery, to the point of obstruction or constriction and then inflated like a balloon, thus widening the vessel.
Other types of catheters used in conjunction with the heart include Swan-Ganz, and central venous lines. Swan-Ganz is used to measure pressures inside the heart, and they are placed inside the pulmonary artery. A central venous catheter is placed in a vein, usually the subclavian vein, or the atrium. This is used for drug administration or fluids.
During surgery people are frequently ‘put under.’ This is an unofficial term for medicinally inducing a temporary state of unconsciousness. During this period, the patient needs to have an artificial airway put in place to ensure that they can breath. The most commonly used adjunct is an endotracheal tube. It is a large catheter that is inserted through the mouth or nose past the vocal cords and into the trachea.
When a baby is born premature or requires admission into a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), they may require the use of an umbilical catheter. This is similar to an IV (intravenous), except these types of catheters are inserted through the umbilical cord. This provides direct access to the central circulation of the neonate for drug or fluid administration.
Catheters are used in artificial insemination, embryo transfer during in vitro fertilization, administration of subcutaneous Insulin, IV therapy of all types, intracranial pressure monitoring and regulation, and direct blood pressure monitoring inside of a vein or artery. As listed above, certain catheter types are named for the person who discovered or invented them; however, to easily identify different types of catheters, one must simply determine their use.