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Foley Catheters – Buying Guide

Foley Catheter helps in draining out urine from the bladder into a urine collection bag. It is a thin tube constructed of soft and flexible material that is inserted into the bladder to completely empty it. Foley urinary catheter features a small retention balloon which is inflated in the bladder to hold the catheter in place. Retention balloon prevents falling out of the catheter from the bladder and lets the user perform his daily activities with freedom. Since the catheter can be left in the bladder for an extended period, it is also called an indwelling catheter.

Types of Foley Catheters

Foley indwelling catheters are usually categorized into three broad categories, namely, two-way Foley catheters, three-way Foley catheters and Foley catheters with a temperature sensor. A brief description of these categories is given below:

Two-way Foley Catheter

Two-way catheter has two channels and a retention balloon. One channel is used to drain out urine, and another channel is used to inflate the retention balloon. Inflated retention balloon securely holds the Foley urethral catheter in place. It is widely used for the management of urinary dysfunction.

 Two-way Foley Catheter

Three-way Foley Catheter

Three-way catheter contains three channels. Like a two-way catheter, one channel is used to drain out urine and another to inflate the retention balloon. The third channel helps provide continuous bladder irrigation to clear blood clots or debris. Three-way Foley catheter is used in the case of prostate tumor, bleeding from the bladder or after an urological surgery.

 Two-way Foley Catheter

Foley Catheter with Temperature Sensor

Foley catheter with an integrated temperature sensor near the tip is used to measure the temperature of urine inside the bladder. It also helps in determining core body temperature. This temperature sensing catheter is used for intensive care and some surgical procedures.

 Two-way Foley Catheter

Choosing the Right Foley Catheter

Selection of an appropriate Foley catheter is essential for successful Foley catheterization. While buying a Foley catheter, few points like its material, size, length, balloon size and tip design should be kept in mind.

Material: Choice of catheter material should be such that suits your body type and minimizes the risk of urethral irritation.

  • Plastic or PVC catheter with large diameter provides good postoperative drainage.
  • Silicone coated latex catheter has a smooth internal and external surface. It can reduce the chances of encrustation.
  • Hydrogel coated latex catheter is more compatible with the body tissues. It provides low surface friction, less trauma and improved patient comfort.


Length: Foley catheter comes in three lengths, namely Short, Standard and Pediatric.

  • Short length catheter (23 - 26 cm) is ideal for ambulatory female patients. Short length allows the leg bag to be worn beneath the skirt. This type of catheter is not recommended for male patients as the shorter length may cause severe trauma to the urethra.
  • Standard length catheter (40 - 44 cm) is ideal for male patients. Bedridden female patients can also use this type of catheter.
  • Pediatric catheter normally has a length of about 30 cm.


Balloon: Foley catheter comes with 3 balloon sizes: 5cc, 10cc and 30cc. Choosing a larger balloon size than required, may result in dragging of the catheter due to the weight of water in larger balloons. The larger balloon sits higher in the bladder and can increase the risk of getting urethral damage. Under or over inflation of the balloon can block the drainage eyes and cause bladder spasms. Therefore, the balloon should be inflated according to the guidelines of manufacturer.


Tip Design: Foley urinary catheter is categorized into two types depending on the type of catheter tips: Nelaton catheter and Tiemann catheter.

  • Nelaton Catheter: This type of catheter usually has a round, straight tip with two drainage eyes. It is ideal for the routine catheterisation.
  • Tiemann Catheter: Tiemann catheter has a curved tip that specializes in negotiating male prostatic curve and difficult insertions.


Charrier size: Diameter of Foley catheter is measured in Charriere (Ch or CH) or French (Fr or FR) size. It indicates the external diameter of the catheter. Choosing the smallest possible size that offers adequate drainage is always recommended because larger diameter may cause urethral spasms and irritation. Foley catheter with larger charrier size can be used for supra pubic catheterisation to prevent blockage.

How to Insert a Foley Catheter?

  • Maintain sterility throughout the procedure of Foley catheterization.
  • Put on the gloves and clean the perineal area.
  • After cleaning the perineal area, dip a cotton in the povidone iodine solution and gently apply it to the urinary opening in a circular motion.
  • Apply some lubricant to the catheter tip and then insert it.
  • Insert the catheter until its near-end is reached to ensure that it has entered the urinary bladder.
  • Once the urine starts flowing out, you can be sure that the catheter is inside the bladder. Now the balloon can be inflated to prevent the accidental removal of the Foley catheter.
  • Do not insert the catheter into a spastic urinary opening or an erected penis. Doing so can cause trauma after insertion. Deep breathing can help in relaxing muscles.
  • To inflate the balloon, inject sterile water to the injection port. It is usually recommended to fill the 5cc balloon with 7-10cc of sterile water and the 30cc balloon with 30-35cc of sterile water.
  • Pull the catheter gently to check if the balloon is inflated.
  • Attach other end of the Foley catheter to the urine bag.

How to Remove a Foley Catheter?

  • Removing the Foley indwelling catheter is way easier than inserting it.
  • You just need to aspirate the sterile water from the injection port.
  • While putting negative pressure, make sure that the lumen of the catheter from where the port comes out gets thinner. This indicates that the balloon is really deflated. An improperly deflated balloon can cause trauma to the urethral passage.
  • Make sure that the volume of sterile water injected is equal to the volume of sterile water you get after aspirating.
  • Slowly pull the catheter away from the urinary opening.
  • After removal, check for blood, urine crystals or pus in the tip of the catheter as this may be an indication of a problem like bleeding, stones or infection.
  • Discard the catheter and the urinary drainage bag.