Whether at the hospital or in the home, a urinary catheter can provide relief for certain medical conditions or can help in the recovery from a surgery or medical procedure. The use of urinary catheters may be short or long-term depending on the patient’s specific needs. Learn more about the different types of urinary catheters, why they are used, and if Medicare benefits can help cover the costs.

Types of Urinary Catheters

Understanding the different types of catheters can help inform the discussion you may have with your doctor to determine which device will best meet your needs. Depending on your circumstances, it’s possible that you may have choices when it comes to selecting an appropriate urinary catheter.

There are three common types of catheters:

  • Indwelling catheter: Both men and women can use an indwelling catheter. It can be inserted through the urethra or surgical hole in the belly to connect directly with the bladder for drainage into a bag.
  • Intermittent catheter: Both men and women can use an intermittent catheter. This style of catheter is used as-needed instead of worn continuously like the indwelling catheter.
  • Condom catheter: This type of catheter can only be used by men and functions as a sheath that allows drainage into a bag through a tube at the tip. Unlike other catheter styles, nothing is inserted into the urethra. This catheter must be changed daily.

Due to the risk of infection, the use of any catheter equipment should follow all appropriate safety measures associated with that particular catheter. This may involve washing all or some of the catheter equipment’s pieces before, during, and after use. You must also wash your hands before and after handling any part of the catheter equipment. Your doctor may also advise you to hydrate regularly to help prevent urinary infections. Talk with your doctor about any risks.

Medical Conditions that Require Urinary Catheters

The U.S. National Library of Medicine lists these primary reasons for catheter use:

  • Urinary retention. If there is difficulty with emptying the bladder or inability to do so at will, a urinary catheter can help bring relief and prevent complications and infection.
  • Urinary incontinence. Issues with urinary leaking or being unable to stop or control urination can be resolved with a urinary catheter. Catheters that can be worn discreetly over the course of the day may work best in this situation.
  • Prostate or genital surgery. Medical procedures that directly impact the bladder or that need the genital area to remain clean and dry while healing may require the use of a catheter.
  • Various other medical conditions. Certain chronic or acute medical conditions may also require the use of a catheter if the bladder or muscles that help control urination is compromised.

In certain situations, a catheter will only be needed while undergoing a medical procedure or during a hospital stay. Other circumstances may require long-term use of a catheter if the function of the bladder or the muscles used to control urinating are impaired.

Medicare Coverage for Urinary Catheters

The Medicare benefits you receive under Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) or through a Medicare Advantage plan may cover urinary catheters under certain circumstances. Medicare Part A, Hospital Insurance, can cover the cost of catheters used when you are formally admitted into a Medicare-approved hospital. Medicare Part B, Medical Insurance, can cover the cost of catheters administered during medical procedures that take place in a doctor’s office or outpatient setting.

Medicare recipients who require catheters as part of their care for permanent medical conditions may have costs covered if the catheters are considered a prosthetic. If Medicare recipients receive home health care, the cost of a catheter may be included as part of the overall home health care benefits.

Recipients who have purchased a Medicare Supplement, or Medigap, plan may have additional coverage for out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments, coinsurance or deductibles.

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