Why is a Pigtail Catheter used?


Catheters are typically used to drain fluids from the body. Most of us have heard about urinary Catheters. Apart from this there are other type of catheters used to drain fluids from the body. Pigtail Catheter is one of them. It is used to remove unwanted fluids from a duct, abscess or organ. It tightly curled at one end and has multiple holes. It helps to reduce the pressure of the injectant on the vessel walls and is used in a chamber or space for draining fluids. Mostly used in angiogram and radiology.


How is a Pigtail Catheter Used?

Pigtail Catheter is used in draining fluids or air from pleural spaces internally. The coil end helps to hold the pigtail catheter in place and used to slow down the flow of fluids injected through the catheter so that they do not burst out causing injury. The Catheter contains a bag attached to the tube which is helpful to collect all the substances that are taken out. Using of pigtail catheter is very complex as there are many sensitive organs present in the body. Different techniques are employed to remove the unnecessary fluids and that varies according to the viscosity of the fluid. Care has to be taken while  removal of pigtail drains as there is the  risk of hemorrhage and infections associated with these drains.


What is a Pigtail Catheter used for?

Pigtail Catheter is exclusively used for abscess drainage such as  bile, urine or pancreatic fluids. It is not possible to  drain abscesses from solid organs but it is helpful to drain out hepatic abscesses. They are injected through the skin by a radiologist, to drain urine out of the ureter if there is a blockage due to infection or a stone. This is called nephrostomy. It is used to drain fluid or pus  from a bile duct in the liver.


 Pigtail Catheters are used in extremely critical conditions of patient where a surgery cannot be done. In angiocardiography which is safe method of studying the heart of children and infants, in ventriculography and in other complex cardiac lesions. A safe way of determining chronic and pericardial drainage in children. Safety procedures have to be followed as it is an invasive procedure. The skin is cleaned to minimize infections at the site of insertion. In some countries a suture is made to the skin to keep the pigtail in place while in US a Molnar disc which is a Silicone 40mm circular disc is used which is placed at the site of insertion. This makes it easier to access the skin to clean it at the insertion. This reduces the risk of infection and is considered better than the sutures as they can get displaced.


How to remove Pigtail Catheter?

While removing pigtail catheter you have to be very careful.  Wear safety gloves to your hands.  Cut the string that curls the tail and then remove the adhesives and release the drain from the chest wall.  Patient should take a deep breath in, and then breathe all the way out to increase the pressure.  Next pull out the drain and place sterile strip and then air and moisture may pass freely through the insertion site.