How do I know what catheter size is right for me?
Everyone has a unique body and needs and no single intermittent catheter out there will work for everyone. The same goes for the size, catheter type, and length of your catheter.
Intermittent catheter sizes include the length and diameter, which is measured in French or Charriere sizes. Catheter French sizes generally start very small at 5 or 6 French and progress upward in size, through as large as 24 French.
A universal color-coding system allows you to simply look at the funnel end to make sure you’re using the prescribed French size. Exceptions to this rule are when you choose luer end catheters or red rubber latex catheters, which do not use the color-coding system.
With the right French size, urine should flow from your bladder, through the tube, at a steady pace while keeping you comfortable.
- Knowing if your catheter is too small: For male or female catheters that may be too small, you may experience spillage, or urine flowing outside of the tube.
- Knowing if your catheter is too big: For male or female catheters that are too big for your urethra, you may experience discomfort or pain.
If you feel that your catheter is too small or too big, speak with your doctor. You and your healthcare professional can determine together what size and length catheter may best suit your individual needs. Your doctor should take into consideration your preferences as well as your particular anatomy.
Male and female anatomies require different length catheters as the male urethra is longer than the female urethra. However, some women prefer a longer catheter. Your healthcare provider will help you decide the right size and length catheter for you.
- Male length catheters are usually 16 inches in length.
- Female length catheters range from 6-8 inches in length.
- Pediatric length catheters typically range from 6-12 inches in length.
For children, boys may need to use a pediatric length or longer 12-16 inch length catheter to ensure it is long enough to reach the bladder and provide complete emptying. Girls can use either a male or a female short style catheter as the female urethra is much shorter. Any intermittent catheter user (child or adult) who has had surgical creation of a catheterizable stoma will need to use a male length catheter to ensure it can reach all the way to the bottom of the bladder.
The French size required is dependent upon the anatomy of the urethra or stoma as well as the body size of the catheter user.