A female catheter is a small tube that is inserted into the urethral meatus, the external opening to the urethra, in order to drain urine for collection. It commonly is used on patients who are sedated for surgery or to treat or diagnose bladder conditions by injecting fluid into the bladder. Insertion of the catheter can be complicated by obesity, childbirth or other factors that vary the layout of the vagina. The procedure is painful to some, so a local anesthetic can be used. When possible, a thin catheter should be used to reduce the risk of harming the patient during insertion.
A female catheter can differ greatly from a male catheter. For example, the Texas catheter resembles a condom and fits over the penis in a similar fashion. The tip has a plastic tube that is connected to a longer tube leading to the drainage bag. Males also can be catheterized using the small, plastic tube that is used to catheterize females. The tube is inserted into the urinary tract through the penis.
Catheters that are left in place for a while are attached to one of two types of drainage bags. The largest of the two is hung under the patient's bed and can be used overnight. Placing the bag on the floor risks overspill when it begins to fill, which isn't healthy for the patient. The second type, commonly called a leg bag, can be attached to the leg and is meant to be discreet. A leg bag can be ideal for everyday use, because it usually is not noticeable under the wearer's pants or dress, and it can be emptied into a toilet.
Long-term use of a female catheter carries the risk of urinary tract infection, which is a bacterial infection of the urinary tract. Common symptoms and signs are an urge to urinate frequently, burning during urination and cloudy or foul-smelling urine. Using the female catheter only when necessary might reduce the risk of infection. Other ways to combat urinary tract infections while using a catheter include regularly cleaning the genital area and catheter, drinking plenty of water and disconnecting the drainage bag as infrequently as possible.