Urinary catheters are available in latex, silicone, and plastic and can come with Hydrogel and antimicrobials catheter coatings, designed to provide a smooth surface that protects against irritation of the urethral mucosa and encrustation. Each coating varies somewhat in its performance and benefits.
Latex catheters are soft, flexible, conformable, and low cost and they continue to be one of the most popular catheter choices available.
Red rubber latex catheters have a little more stiffness and have the added benefit of being radiopaque; the addition of barium to the latex also makes these catheters firmer and less likely to kink.
A little stiffer than the Reb Rubber, the Silicone Coated Rubber catheter can be the middle ground between durability and comfort. These are latex catheters covered in silicone which helps protect people from the latex, and has an easier insertion and makes it a bit more rigid.
Intermittent foley catheters are available in latex and plastic/vinyl. Plastic/Vinyl catheters are used with patients who might need a stiffer catheter than available in latex, may have an enlarged prostate and may also have an allergy to latex.
Silicone catheters are available uncoated or hydrogel-coated. Studies have shown that silicone is more biocompatible with urethral tissue than latex, leading to reduced incidence of urethritis and possibly of urethral strictures.
A catheter coated with the antibacterial nitrofurazone is also available. Studies have shown that this catheter (Release-NF, Rochester Medical, Stewartville, MN) can reduce UTI rates for up to 7 days.