Catheter: The Use of Catheters in Healthcare

There Are Many Types of Catheters

A intravenous drip being attached to a hand
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Definition: A catheter is a hollow tube, similar to a straw, that is inserted into the body. Catheters vary in size and length and are used for a variety of reasons.

The Use of Catheters

A catheter may be inserted into an opening in the body in order to introduce medications into the body, or a catheter may be used to remove fluids from the body.  In general, the catheter is used to provide a wide range of medical treatments and usually involve the movement of liquids into or out of the body.

For example, a urinary catheter is inserted through the urethra and into the bladder.  This is done to drain urine from the bladder in patients who are too sick to use a bedpan or to remove urine from the bladder in a patient who is unable to urinate.

A catheter may also be inserted into a vein with a needle in order to obtain IV access.  This is then used to inject medication and fluids into the body.  Some IV catheters, such as a PICC line, can also be used to draw blood.

During a cardiac catheterization, a thin cannula is inserted into a vessel in the groin and threaded through the bloodstream until it reaches the heart.  Instruments and/or dye can then be introduced in order to perform the necessary procedures.

Drains are another type of catheter, and may be placed in an area of infection where pus is collecting to drain the infectious fluids. 

Sterile Catheters

Catheters used in medical procedures are typically sterile, to prevent creating an infection at the insertion site or in the body.

 The insertion of catheters usually begins with cleaning of the skin or the area where the tube will be inserted and sterile technique is used to minimize bacteria. 

Also Known As: cath, catheters,

Examples: A tiny catheter was inserted into the blood vessel so IV medications could be given.

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