Everything You Need to Know About Straight Tip vs Coude Catheter

July 23,2020 |
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Urinary catheters—hollow, flexible tubes that assist in urination—are used for a number of different reasons. Primarily, they help carry urine from your bladder to outside of the body when you are having a hard time using the bathroom your own. This could be due to a recent surgery, an underlying problem, or any other reason that you might be having difficulty emptying your bladder. If this happens, it’s important to see a urologist. If the problem requires it, your doctor will recommend using a catheter to help make sure that you don’t put any extra strain on your urinary tract system.

Understanding Intermittent Catheters

In most cases, catheters are only used for brief periods of time while the underlying problem is taken care of or addressed. During this time, your urologist will help you get acquainted with intermittent catheters. An intermittent catheter is a catheter that’s only used when you need to empty your bladder. It’s inserted by the person who needs it, at home, and them removed immediately after your bladder is empty. Since it’s done at home, without a medical professional, this is also known as self-catheterization. This is different than indwelling catheters, which are often left in for up to a month or longer depending on the situation. Your urologist will discuss your specific circumstances with you to determine which type of catheter is best, but more often than not you will be using intermittent catheters.

When it comes to intermittent catheters, there are two primary types that are used most often: straight tip catheters and coudé tip catheters. They work to achieve the same results, but many people find one more comfortable than the other. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about straight tip vs. coudé catheters.

What is a Straight Tip Catheter?

A straight tip catheter is exactly what it sounds like—it’s a catheter with a tube that’s perfectly straight from top to bottom. The thin, flexible tube that’s used to empty your bladder has no curvature throughout— only a few holes at the end that aids in emptying your urine into the toilet. There are a range of different sizes of straight tip catheters. They also come in a variety of options that help address specific patient needs—i.e., coated or lubricated, allergen-free, latex, and more.

Pros of Straight Tip Catheters

Some pros of straight tip catheters are that they’re easy to use, safe, and inexpensive. Since the tip is perfectly straight, many people find that they’re fairly straightforward to insert. Straight tip catheters can be used by both men and women in their own home, without the assistance of a medical professional.

Cons of Straight Tip Catheters

For some, straight tip catheters can cause problems. If insertion is uncomfortable, but the catheter is forced, you will increase your risk of trauma to the site and can put yourself at a higher risk for bladder or kidney infections. Straight tip catheters need to be kept as clean as possible to avoid contamination but might be hard to keep discrete if you need to carry them around with you. Some people experience pain when using a straight tip catheter. If you experience any pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about trying a coudé catheter instead.

How to Insert a Straight Tip Catheter

Inserting a straight tip catheter can seem intimidating at first, but with practice it will get easier. Your doctor or nurse will walk you through self-catheterization before you leave their office so that you know exactly what to do and can get your questions answered before leaving.

Start by washing your hands thoroughly and gathering all of your catheterization supplies. For men, you’ll want to stand or sit on the toilet. Women are recommended to have a self-standing or folding mirror that they can use for insertion. Make sure that you thoroughly clean the outside of the penis or labial/urethra opening. If advised by your doctor, apply the topical anesthesia and let it sit for a minute or so. Men should hold their penis firmly with one hand and the catheter tip in the other while slowly inserting either the straight tip or coudé tip into the urethra. Women should sit on the toilet with adequate view to locate the urethral opening. Spread the labia with one hand and insert the catheter with the other, sliding it into the urethra. Regardless of gender, once you have a steady stream of urine coming out keep the catheter in until the urine stops. Slowly remove the catheter and dispose it before washing your hands again and cleaning up.

What is a Coudé Tip Catheter?

A coudé tip catheter is still fairly straight, but there is a slight curve at the end where you will insert the catheter into your urethra. It’s named after the French word coudé, which means “bend.” When people feel discomfort using a straight tip catheter, their urologist will recommend trying a coudé tip for increased comfort.

Within the category of coudé tip catheters, there are three different tip styles: tapered tip, olive tip, and tiemann tip. A tapered tip is the most common type of coudé tip and is good for dealing with small obstructions or blockages. An olive tip has a more rounded end that’s shaped like a globe to help widen narrow urethras during insertion. A tiemann tip is the longest, most narrow type of coudé tip and is used to help limit discomfort.

Pros of Coudé Tip Catheters

The pros of using a coudé tip catheter are similar to those of using a straight tip catheter, but they offer the added benefit of increased comfort. If you have a blockage or enlarged prostate, coudé tip catheters will be more comfortable and relieve any discomfort. The slight curve helps to reduce friction and cause less irritation. If you have strictures, a coudé tip will be your best option. Coudé tip catheters are more often used by men and children to match the curvature of their urethras, but women have still been known to benefit from them.

Cons of Coudé Tip Catheters   

The biggest downfall to coudé tip catheters is that they require a precision during insertion to avoid any discomfort and therefore take a bit longer to self-catheterize. You need to go slowly to ensure that the coudé tip is in the right position, otherwise you might experience more discomfort than with using a straight tip catheter. Again, your doctor will help you navigate this, but it’s important to never force a coudé tip during self-catheterization. To combat these problems, you might need to use more lubricant. If you have any problems, talk to your urologist.

How to Insert a Coudé Tip Catheter 

To insert a coudé tip catheter, you’ll follow the same procedure as if you were inserting a straight tip catheter. If you have any questions or feel like you need more direction, talk to your urologist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and never feel embarrassed if you need to get further clarification.

Determining Which Catheter is Best for You

The type of catheter you’ll need to use depends on your personal circumstances. For some, a straight tip catheter will be more comfortable while others will prefer a coudé tip catheter. You’ll work with your urologist to determine which catheter is best for you, but always let your doctor know if you experience any discomfort during insertion or self-catheterization at home.

Most people can use a straight tip catheter with no problem. However, if you do notice any discomfort, especially during the process at your doctor’s office, ask about your options to increase comfort levels. Many people who have benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) need to use coudé tip catheters as do those with urethral strictures, an atrophic vagina, urethral trauma, if you’re treating cancer with radiation, or if you’ve had prior prostate surgery. Always discuss your medical history with your doctor so that you can determine what the best course of action is going to be.


Using a catheter isn’t supposed to be painful. With instruction from your doctor and a little practice, you should be able to do it comfortably without even thinking about it. To make sure that you’re not experiencing any discomfort, talk to your urologist to determine which type of catheter will work best for you. If you have any symptoms of urologic problems, don’t hesitate to contact your urologist today. If you need any urological supplies or additional educational resources, visit our educational support page or our product selection guide. Byram Healthcare is proud to offer full-service urological care and we have all the high-quality urological supplies that you need. All of your orders can be delivered to your home, at any time of the day. If you’re looking for personalized, confidential services, our teams of knowledgeable urological customer service specialists are here to help.