A pigtail catheter is a medical device designed to be inserted into the body for the purpose of drainage or introducing fluids like soluble dyes for medical imaging studies. These catheters are produced by many medical supply companies and are available in a range of lengths and sizes to meet different needs. They can be ordered through supplier catalogs by medical practitioners for use in clinical and hospital settings.
Like other catheters, the pigtail catheter is a long, flexible tube that can be guided into the body. The design of this particular style includes small holes that allow for drainage and a coiled end. The coiled end acts to hold the catheter in place, and it can also be used to slow the flow of fluids injected through the catheter so that they do not burst out in a jet and cause injuries or obscure a medical imaging study.
One reason to use this type of catheter is to drain body fluid. The catheter is equipped to handle clear fluids that are not heavily coagulated, like urine, bile, and pancreatic fluid. Medical practitioners can use one to provide drainage if a patient has a blockage that makes it impossible to clear the fluid independently. The catheter ensures that fluid does not build up and cause pain and pressure, and it can be attached to a bag to collect the fluid. Collecting the fluid improves sanitation, allows practitioners to measure output, and provides a supply of fluid for sampling, if necessary.
Another use for the pigtail catheter is in medical imaging studies that use tracer dyes. The catheter can be threaded into place and then used to introduce the dye to the area of interest. The design allows the dye to diffuse evenly across the area so that it will be visible on the imaging study without clouding or obscuring the image. Once the dye is dispersed, the catheter can be removed and the body can eliminate the dye on its own over the course of several days.
These catheters are usually sold in single use sterile packaging. When one is needed, a package with the right size can be selected and opened for use with a specific patient. There are procedures that must be followed when preparing to insert a catheter to sterilize the site of insertion and keep the surrounding area clean so that bacteria are not introduced into the body.