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How To Choose The Right Foley Catheter

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Foley catheters are indwelling urinary catheters. They have a tiny, thin balloon at one end that when filled with sterile water helps to comfortably hold them in place. If a Foley catheter has been recommended by your physician, you might feel confused about what to look for. In order to assist you in taking an active role in your health care, here are the main differences between Foley catheters regarding materials and size so you can select the perfect one for your needs.


Latex. Latex Foleys have been a popular choice for many years. They tend to be very pliable, are generally easy to place as they move in and out with ease, and they offer a great deal of comfort for the patient. If you have a latex allergy, or your doctor is concerned about your risk of developing an allergy to latex, they might recommend either a silicone or silicone-coated Foley.

Silicone. This type of Foley is perfect for those with a latex allergy, but they are also recommended for patients who need long-term catheterization. While it's no guarantee, they typically require less frequent changing than their latex counterparts because they are resistant to encrustation from tissue irritation. Clear silicone Foley catheters also offer an additional advantage: the ability to see if any blood clots or thick sediment is forming in the urine.

Silicone-Coated Latex. This is simply another option for those with a latex allergy. But the coating does not last forever, so if you need long-term use, or you have a severe allergy to latex, you're better off going with a silicone.

Infection Control. Silver has been known to ward off infection for many years now, but only recently have professionals understood why: bacteria literally disintegrates when it comes in contact with this precious element. Additionally, silver tends to promote healthy cell growth. For this reason, silver is used in a number of health care supplies, from bandages, wound dressings, and ointments, all the way to urinary catheters.

That's right. Some Foley catheters now come with a silver coating to help prevent the possibility of getting an infection. And current studies have indicated that the overall risk of infection can be cut in half when using this type of urinary catheter.


The size of catheter you need will largely be determined by a few variables, and comfort certainly comes into play here. The general rule of thumb is to use the smallest size possible that still allows the free flow of urine. But while a smaller Foley might be more desirable, there are a few situations in which you'll want to go bigger.

First of all, it's important to understand the numbers. Foley catheters generally range from 12FR to 40FR. The "FR" stands for "French," and the smaller the number, the smaller the diameter. A 12FR catheter is 4mm in diameter, whereas something larger like a 30FR is 10mm wide.

Your medical provider will be able to make a recommendation on what size you need, but the most common sizes for adults are either 14FR or 16FR. While you may initially prefer something smaller, keep in mind that the smaller the catheter, the more restricted the movement of urine through the tube. So your bladder may not empty as quickly as it would with a larger size. Additionally, if you tend to have a lot of sediment or blood clots in your urine, you'll want to have a larger size that will be less likely to form blockages.

Catheters that are too large, on the other hand, can be slightly more difficult to place and can occasionally lead to irritation. Therefore, most medical professionals recommend starting with a 14 or 16 and going up from there as needed.