Catheter valves, intermittent catheters and other catheter accessories
Q7. Please explain what a catheter valve is.
A7. A catheter valve is a tap-like device that fits into the end of your catheter, giving you an alternative to using urinary drainage bags. It is suitable for a wide range of people using either a urethral or suprapubic catheter. It can help to maintain bladder tone and capacity. Valves also reduce trauma to the bladder by allowing the bladder wall to be lifted away from the catheter balloon which keeps it in place inside your body. A valve replaces the need to have a leg bag as it reduces the trauma from the traction of the catheter on the bladder neck. The flushing action when the tap is opened and urine drains out may also reduce the risk of infections and blockage. Your bladder then continues to store urine and can be emptied intermittently (On average 2-4 hourly) by opening the device and draining it either into a toilet or other suitable receptacle. A night drainage bag can be attached to the end of your catheter valve; the valve then opens allowing the urine to drain into the bag, it is then closed before disconnecting it and disregarding the night drainage bag. There are different taps available depending on which style you find easiest to use and what suits your needs. You should wash the area where the catheter enters your body as part of your daily hygiene regime and you should avoid applying talc, creams and antiseptics around this area. Bathing or showering with a valve in place will not cause any harm. Catheter valves can be used whether your catheter is permanent or temporary. There are some medical conditions that mean the valve has to be used with caution or may not be suitable for use, examples include: severe cognitive impairment e.g. dementia, uncontrolled detrusor over activity (which might cause urine to bypass) or renal impairment.
It is very important that you have been assessed and prescribed a catheter valve by a healthcare professional. He or she will then explain to you how often you need to drain your bladder and other information that is specific to your condition. The valve, like the leg bag should be changed according to the manufacturers guidelines (usually every 5-7 days) and always wash your hands before and after any catheter procedure.
Q8. I have heard intermittent catheterisation is better for you. Is this true?
A8. Yes, but it is not always appropriate or possible to conduct intermittent catheterisation, especially if you are female as the urethra (where you pass urine from) is sometimes difficult to locate and you need to be quite flexible to do this procedure. However your partner or carer could do this for you.
Just to clarify: Intermittent catheterisation is the passing of a sterile usually single use lubricated plastic catheter into the bladder to drain it of any residual urine. The catheter is then withdrawn and thrown away and a new one used next time. The frequency of this depends on the individual and the reasons for having to use a catheter. (More about this subject will be discussed at a later date)
It does mean you have fewer infections than with an indwelling catheter and you are free from wearing a medical device.
Q9. Are all catheters and their accessories available on the NHS or can I buy them?
A9. Almost all are available on NHS prescription with your Doctors agreement. However more and more products are now available to buy either via mail order or through the Internet. Make sure your Health Care Professional advises you first and make sure you use a reputable firm so that what you get is safe to use and fit for purpose.