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A catheter is a long, flexible tube used to provide a route for fluids to move in or out of the body. Catheters come in many different sizes and styles, depending on the intended use. Very small catheters are used to administer drugs, while larger catheters may be used to drain the bladder or keep a feeding pathway open. A red rubber catheter is most often a larger catheter, in the range of 12 to 16 inches (about 30 to 41 centimeters) long, and is used both in homes and in medical settings for bladder and esophageal care.
Patients who have had any type of bladder surgery or who have bladder problems may need to use a red rubber catheter to drain the bladder on a regular basis. If the patient has been given a new bladder, he or she will be encouraged to urinate first, then use the catheter to ensure that the bladder is completely drained. The frequency of catheterization depends on the patient’s specific circumstances and is normally specified by the physician. The catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra and left in place until the bladder is completely drained.
A red rubber catheter may also be used to flush out the bladder, something that is of particular importance for patients who are healing from bladder cancer or other bladder surgery. This process helps to remove irritants from the bladder and promotes healing. To flush the bladder, a catheter is inserted into the bladder, then plain or medicated water is used to clean out the bladder, filling and draining it until the liquid that comes out is clean and without any mucous.
Patients who have had neck, mouth or jaw trauma of any type may have a red rubber catheter placed in the esophagus and down into the stomach through a hole in the throat. The catheter is held in place with stitches, and may be used as a pathway for liquid feedings for the patient. If the catheter becomes dislodged it needs to be replaced quickly, as the hole does not stay open long without the catheter in place.
The red rubber catheter can be cleaned and reused in most cases until it becomes brittle and inflexible. A catheter that is to be used more than once must be washed well with warm, soapy water and allowed to dry completely before being used again. Use of harsh chemicals is not recommended, as these may damage the rubber and destroy the catheter prematurely.