Difference between Disposable and Reusable Catheters

I spent time over the past few weeks observing various support group pages and community sites. Along with what I read on the web and from conversations with people whom I consult as a nurse, I see some confusion between disposable and reusable catheters. This blog posting attempts to answer some common questions.

Q: Do disposable catheters work as well as reusable ones?

A: Disposable catheters are the exact same product as reusable catheters. The only difference is what you do with the catheter after you use it. When insurance covers disposable catheters, you are sent enough to throw the catheter away after each use. With reusable catheters, you need to sterilize it after each use to avoid contamination. Either way, it is the exact same catheter.

Q: I’ve heard of “special” catheters that you dispose of after each use. What’s up with that?

A: There are only a few catheter types which are not reusable. The hydrophilic catheter is one. It is packaged with either sterile water or a lubricating jelly already inside the package. You just squeeze the pack of lubricant or water to pop it. Typically, because the lubrication is in the package already, it is meant to be used one time. There are also catheters made with an antibacterial coating. Because the antibacterial coating is not reusable, it is meant to be used one time. Since using a catheter more than once requires sterilization, reusing this type of catheter decreases the effectiveness of the antibacterial coating. The last type of catheter is called a closed system. The closed system is helpful for those who experience frequent reoccurring urinary tract infections. The closed system, or “sterile kit,” is packaged with the catheter inside a drainage bag. The catheter is pre-lubricated and remains attached to the bag while the urine drains directly into the bag. This system is used to help decrease infection. If you have a problem with infections and you think a closed system improve your rate of infection, I’d love to investigate that for you!

Q: How can I switch from reusable to disposable catheters?

A: That is an easy question. All you need to do is call me at 800-860-8856. My job as a nurse for Marquis Healthcare is to work directly with your Doctor and insurance carrier to assure we get your disposable catheters covered. In 2008, Medicare made a big change to their policy to allow people up to 200 disposable catheters a month. Because of that change, most, if not all insurance companies changed their policy also.

If you are having trouble with Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), or have trouble getting disposable catheters, please call me. It’s my personal mission to help patients get the catheters they need. I know your health is important to you and I want to assure you, it is just as important to me.

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