An Overview to a Foley Catheter System
Having a catheter fitted can be a daunting experience and all the equipment that goes with it, whilst necessary, can be overwhelming.
To make things easier to understand, we go through all the products you may use with a catheter; from top to bottom. We will explain what they are and what their purpose is to help you make sense of your foley catheter system.
A foley catheter is a soft, hollow tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine. In many cases, the bladder is accessed via the urethra but, in other cases, the catheter is inserted directly into the bladder via the abdominal wall. This is known as a suprapubic catheter.
A foley catheter is held in place by a balloon which is inflated after insertion with sterile water or glycerin. A foley catheter will be inserted if a person is unable to empty their bladder by passing urine.
A catheter gel is used to provide lubrication to make catheter insertion easier and more comfortable. Some gels are just for lubrication whilst others contain ingredients that act as an antiseptic and an anesthetic, to protect against infection and to further minimise discomfort on insertion.
A fixation device, such as a catheter retaining strap, should always be used with a foley catheter to “anchor” the catheter to avoid sudden movement which could cause pulling on the catheter and, in turn, urethral trauma and injury.
Catheter Bag or Catheter Valve
With a foley catheter continually draining urine from the bladder there needs to be a containment or drainage device to collect it. Connected to the end of the catheter will be either a catheter bag which will be attached to the leg or a catheter valve. A catheter bag will hold the urine and will have a drainage tap on the bottom to allow you to empty it when needed. A catheter valve is a tap-like device that will allow you to drain from the bladder and regular intervals. A catheter valve is a more discreet option but it’s suitability will depend on the person’s bladder tone and capacity.
Leg Bag Strap or Leg Bag Holder
If you are using a catheter bag, it is important to not let the bag hang unsupported from the catheter as the weight could cause trauma and discomfort. There are two methods that you can use to support the weight of a catheter bag. Firstly, a pair of leg bag straps that will feed through the top and bottom of the bag and wrap around the leg to hold it securely and comfortably in place, secondly, a leg bag holder or leg bag sleeve, that encases the bag on your leg to offer full support.
The last thing you want to do is to be getting up multiple times in the night to empty your catheter bag so many will choose to use a larger capacity catheter bag overnight. A single-use night bag is available in 2 or 3 litre capacities and can be attached to the leg bag as part of an overnight link system. This provides extra capacity for drainage whilst you sleep to prevent you having to empty in the night.
Importance of a Closed Foley Catheter System
You may hear your catheter system being referred to as a closed system; so what does this mean? A closed system means that the connection between catheter and catheter bag (or valve) is not broken until the point that you need to change the catheter bag (or valve). So, for example, if you have a leg bag on in the day you shouldn’t disconnect it at night to use a night bag; you should connect the night bag to the leg bag utilising the silicone tubing at the bottom of the leg bag tap. Any “breaks” in the system will make you more susceptible to infections which is why a closed system is advocated and encouraged.