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Assessing patients for intermittent self-catheterisation

Study looked at types of catheter available for intermittent use

Study looks at types of catheter available for intermittent use


Nurses should reassure patients who are using intermittent self-catheterisation. Picture: iStock

For patients experiencing incomplete bladder emptying, intermittent self-catheterisation (ISC) is a relatively easy procedure and, for most, it will be more acceptable than a long-term catheter. It is now regarded as the gold standard for urine drainage.

If ISC is needed, patients will use a nelaton device. This is the collective term for a catheter that, unlike the Foley catheter, has no balloon to hold it in place. There is a range of catheters to choose from.

Hydrophilic catheters have a dehydrated coating that needs to be soaked for 30 seconds before use. They usually come packaged with a sachet of sterile water that activates the coating when pressed.

Pre-lubricated catheters come coated in gel and are ready to use. Both these types of coated catheter must be discarded after a single use. For uncoated catheters patients will need to carry lubricant, but the catheter can be reused for up to a week.

Implications for practice

When teaching people to use catheters, nurses should consider additional aids such as mirrors, leg separators and handling aids, and should spend time reassuring patients and alleviating fears.

When choosing the best product, various factors must be considered.

For women who are overweight a female-length catheter may be too short, so a longer male catheter may be more suitable.

For those who need to perform ISC more frequently, compact catheters may be preferred as they are easier to carry around. For women these can be as short as 7cm, but for men it is only the packaging that is compact.


Davis C, Rantell A (2018) Selecting an intermittent self-catheter: key considerations. British Journal of Nursing. 27, Suppl 15, S11-S16.

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