Catheter Basics

Straight Catheters:

These catheters are straight tubes of flexible plastic or rubber (Be sure to tell your physician if you have a latex allergy). One end has a rounded tip to drain the urine from the bladder, and the other end often has a funnel attached to it. These catheters require lubrication. An insertion kit may be purchased that includes cleansing towelettes or swabs, a drape, gloves, lubricant and a plastic bag for disposal. 

Hydrophilic Catheters:

These catheters are coated with a hydrophilic polymer. When saline is introduced, this coating allows the catheter to glide through the urethra easily. Hydrophilic catheters may cause less friction and may make insertion more comfortable. These catheters are either pre-lubricated with sterile saline or require the user to burst a saline-filled packet to wet the catheter. Be sure that all of the saline is released from the packet and soak the catheter for 30 seconds before insertion into the urethra. 

Closed System Catheters:

Closed system catheters are pre-lubricated and contained in a clear plastic pouch to ensure sterility. There is a “protective tip” that is placed into the urethral opening prior to gently inserting the catheter into the urethra. The protective tip is a few millimeters long and helps the catheter bypass the urethral opening where the highest concentration of bacteria may reside. Closed system catheters are discreet as they have an attached collection bag. The collection bag is marked to assist in the measurement of output. 

Condom Catheters: 

Condom catheters are for male use only and fit over the penis. These catheters are self-adherent with an adhesive that is integrated into the sheath or are secured by an adhesive applied to the penis prior to application. A strap is applied over the penis and sheath after the catheter is applied. These catheters include a drainage bag for disposal.


Shipping is contingent upon receiving product authorization from the insurance payer if required and a physician’s order if required by state law for the product and does not apply to incontinence products and breast pumps.

Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from The Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurses Society’s (WOCN) “Best Practice Guidelines for Urinary Catheters.” Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only and is not complete clinical information. McKesson cannot be held responsible for the continued currency of or for any errors or omissions in the information.