External Catheters

External Condom Catheters are used by men to as an alternative to an indwelling catheter. Condom Catheters afix over the penis and directs urine in to a collection device. External Catheters can be less invasive than indwelling catheters and are available in a few variations but are all based off the design of a standard condom catheter. The most common external catheters feature a flexible and soft sheath which may have an adhesive. If an adhesive is not already present on the External Condom Catheter, a tincture of Benzoin can be used to ensure the condom catheter stays in place. We carry external condom catheters from major manufacturers like Mentor, Rusch, Kendall, Hollister and Conveen.

External Catheter Information: Indications -- Contraindications -- External Condom Catheter Sizing -- Application -- Removal -- Complications -- Troubleshooting

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External Condom Catheters aid in wetness prevention from both chronic and temporary urinary incontinence in men. Specific indications for condom catheter use include the following conditions:

  • Reflexive voiding fom spinal cord injuries
  • Damage to sphincter from prostatectomy
  • Limited access to toilet from dementia, impaired vision, or decreased mobility
  • Safety concerns with unsupervised or unassisted toilet use
  • Unmanageable urinary frequency or urgency
  • Contraindications

    The contraindications for External Catheter use are few, but do exist and should taken in to consideration when deciding whether condom catheter use is appropriate.  

    • Allergies to latex or adhesives. There are condom catheters available which are made without latex and without adhesive.
    • Issues with the glans penis and/or the penile shaft, such as:
      • Open lesions
      • Ulcers
      • Other skin irritation
    • Catheter induced hypospadias
    • Phimosis and paraphimosis

    External Condom Catheter Sizing

    In order to determine the appropriate condom catheter size, we have made an external catheter sizing guide available here.
    Print the guide and cut out the colored notches. Place the notch behind the glans penis and select the size which offers the closest fit.

    Alternatively, you can determine the diameter of the penis by measuring the circumference (c) of the penis in millimeters with measuring tape and apply this formula:
    circumference times 7 and divided by 22. (Cx7)/22.


    Proper application of an external catheter is crucial to ensure successful use.

    • Make sure any residual adhesive or creams have been completely removed
    • Wash the penis thoroughly with soap and water and dry completely.
    • If indicated, apply a skin protectant and wait until it has fully dried before applying the external condom catheter.
    • During the application of the external catheter, leave the foreskin down and in its natural position.

    Catheter Application Suggestions

    • Try to avoid moisture barrier creams or any other ointments that may disrupt the adhesive included with some catheters.
    • In order to avoid skin irritation it is not recommended to shave pupic hair. It would be advisable to trim long pubic hair and/or use a hair guard. If you do not have a hair guard, a paper towel with a hole cut in the middle can be used during catheter application and removed once it is in place.
    • Do not use adhesive tape for external catheter fixation, they are not designed for that and can cause complications like penis restriction, difficulty win complete voiding, inflexibility of the catheter, trauma to the penis.
    • Continually monitor for penis constriction and for any kinks that may occur in the condom catheter collection tube.


    Wear times can vary based on the type of external catheter being used and patients skin sensitivity. Common wear times are between 12 and 72 hours and should be re-evaluated periodically.

    • Unless otherwise indicated by the manufacturer, remove the catheter daily for cleaning and skin inspection.
    • Removal of the external condom catheter is easily done by soaking with a warm washcloth for 30 seconds.


    Many problems with external condom catheters commonly are attributed to equipment malfunctions and user error. Many problems can be avoided with proper hygiene and knowledge of external catheter application.

    • Allergic reaction
    • Edema
    • Skin tears
    • Penile erythema, dermatitis, prurtis, maceration
    • Inflammation of the glas penis
    • Ischemic tissue injury
    • Bacteriuria and urinary tract infection


    The condom catheter falls off
    • The sizing might be incorrect, check out our external condom catheter sizing guide. The penis can vary in size according to changes in temperature and position so try measuring the penis in the position it is commonly in when the external catheter falls off.
    • If the penis retracts while in certain positions, a shorter external catheter may facilitate.
    • Allow for an increase in penis size for nocturnal erections.
    • Make sure there is only a small space between the drainage port and the end of the penis so if urine pools and backflows it can break the seal between the external catheter and skin.
    • If possible, avoid using moisturizers, creams, or powders that can affect the adhesion of the condom catheter.

    There is no urine in the bag
    Inspect the following common issues:

    • The external catheter is twisted or dislodged
    • The tubing is kinked or obstructed
    • The condom catheter is too tight and is applying pressure to the urethra
    • A vacuum can sometimes occur at the end of the external catheter and can prevent drainage. Break the vacuum by briefly disconnecting the drainage and allow urine to begin draining.