What is an External Catheter?

An internal catheter may be used for women or men who cannot use an external device.
An external male catheter.
In some cases, physical therapy may be recommended as treatment for urinary incontinence in the elderly.
Painful urination and blood in the urine are symptoms of a urinary tract infection, which may occur as a result of wearing a catheter.
Medication may be used in lieu of a catheter to treat some cases of urinary incontinence.
Urinary catheters a used in men with incontinence issues.
Treatment for some forms of bladder cancer may involve the use of a catheter.
An external catheter is a device that fits over the penis like a condom.
Article Details
  • Written By: S . Seegars
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2015
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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An external catheter is a device that fits over the penis like a condom and is attached by a tube to a drainage bag used to collect urine leakage. The drainage bag is strapped to the leg. The catheter is used for men who deal with urinary incontinence and prefer not to use diapers or pads. The external catheter is also called a urinary sheath, condom catheter or penile sheath.

The external catheter is made from different materials, such as silicone, polyvinyl or rubber latex. It is attached by an adhesive that is either a part of the sheath or an adhesive or silicone that is applied to the penis before application. A strap can also be used to apply the catheter to the penis.

It does come in different sizes, and the size is important, because it must fit securely to avoid leakage. Most external catheters are disposable, although reusable catheters also are made for active men who suffer from incontinence. Disposable catheters should not be worn for longer than 24-48 hours.

There are several types of external catheters as well. In addition to disposable and reusable catheters, there are one- and two-piece catheters. The self-adhesive, one-piece catheter has adhesive as a part of the sheath and is easier to use and is more secure. The two-piece catheter is applied with either silicone, adhesive strips, spray-on or brush-on adhesives or elasticized tape.


Other types of external catheters include the adhesive urinary pouch, which is a pouch attached to the base of the penis and primarily is used for those with a retracted penis. Another type of external catheter used for a short or retracted penis has an adhesive seal that can be attached to the tip of the glans with a connector that is then attached to a collection system. There also is an inflatable catheter, which is simply a retention ring that is inflated to secure the catheter and then deflated to remove it.

The catheter should be removed daily by soaking the penis with a warm washcloth for 30 seconds. The skin should be inspected so that any problems can be addressed. Many men are able to wear an external catheter for 12-72 hours.

Although the external catheter is a safer option than an internal catheter because there is no tube insertion into the bladder, there still are some common problems that might be experienced. There is a slight chance of infection, although there is a smaller incidence than with an internal catheter. Skin irritation can be caused because of the friction of the catheter rubbing against the penis. There could be a restriction of blood flow to the penis, and penile obstruction also could occur.


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How do you determine what size external catheter to use?

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