Which Catheter Size is Right For Me?
Everyone’s body and needs are unique, 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 catheters are measured on the French or Charriere scale that is based on the external diameter of the tube. This is commonly abbreviated as FR or CH and will be listed on your catheter package. Catheter French sizes generally start very small at 6 French and progress upward in size, through as large as 24 French.
Intermittent catheters typically use a universal color-coding system to help determine what French size a catheter is. The funnel colour corresponds to its French size:
- Light Green = 6FR
- Light Blue = 8FR
- Black = 10FR
- White = 12FR
- Dark Green = 14FR
- Orange = 16FR
- Red = 18FR
- Yellow = 20FR
- Purple = 22FR
- Dark Blue = 24FR
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. If your catheter is too small, you may experience spillage, or urine flowing outside of the tube. Whereas, if your catheter is too big for your urethra, you may experience discomfort or pain.
Speak with your healthcare professional if you think your catheter is too big or too small.
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 41cm in length.
- Female length catheters range from 15-20cm in length.
- Paediatric length catheters typically range from 15-30cm in length.
For children, boys may need to use a paediatric length or longer 15-30cm 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.
You and your healthcare professional can determine together what size and length catheter may best suit your individual needs.