What is a Foley Catheter? - Definition & Uses

Instructor: Bethany Lieberman

Bethany is a certified OB/GYN nurse who has a master's degree in Nursing Education.

A Foley catheter is a small flexible rubber or plastic tube that is placed into the bladder to assist in the collection and drainage of urine for those who have medical conditions affecting their urinary tract. Read about more about its uses below.

What Is A Foley Catheter?

Imagine you had an urgent sensation to pee, but you sat and sat and pushed and pushed and you couldn't get any urine out. What a terrible feeling! If you went several hours without being able to pee, you would risk bladder rupture and infection. It's a good thing there is a device that can provide relief by emptying your bladder. It's called a Foley catheter, which is a flexible rubber or plastic tube that can be inserted through the urethra or a surgical hole in your belly to reach the bladder.


Many people need catheters to help them empty their bladders. A catheter is also an easy way for a medical care provider to collect a sterile urine sample to send to the lab to check if the kidneys are working properly or to check for infection. It is also used for people having surgical procedures under anesthesia.

Individuals who have urine leakage or poor bladder control can benefit from a catheter. This device can also help someone who cannot push all their urine out, which causes pain. Additionally, a catheter is helpful for those people who can't feel the sensation to pee due to nerve damage, such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and even dementia.


It probably sounds like a Foley catheter would hurt just as bad as the sensation to pee, but it doesn't have to. It comes in different sizes, called French, and the smallest size possible is chosen to maximize comfort. It also helps if numbing cream or gel is applied to the urethra before insertion.

The catheter comes in a sterile package, which includes a cleaning solution, lubricant and a syringe of water. The urethra must be cleaned and the catheter placed using sterile technique to ensure bacteria is not introduced into the bladder, which could cause infection.

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