Aim To evaluate the influence of number and location of catheter shaft side holes regarding drainage efficiency in an in vitro model. Materials and methods Three different drainage catheter models were constructed: open-ended model with no side holes (one catheter), unilateral side hole model (six catheters with one to six unilateral side holes), and bilateral side hole model (six catheters with one to six bilateral side holes). Catheters were inserted into a drainage output-measuring device with a constant-pressure reservoir of water. The volume of water evacuated by each of the catheters at 10-second intervals was measured. A total of five trials were performed for each catheter. Data were analysed using one-way analysis of variance. Results The open-ended catheter had a mean drainage volume comparable to the unilateral model catheters with three, four, and five side holes. Unilateral model catheters had significant drainage volume increases up to three side holes; unilateral model catheters with more than three side holes had no significant improvement in drainage volume. All bilateral model catheters had significantly higher mean drainage volumes than their unilateral counterparts. There was no significant difference between the mean drainage volume with one, two, or three pairs of bilateral side holes. Further, there was no drainage improvement by adding additional bilateral side holes. Conclusion The present in vitro study suggests that beyond a critical side hole number threshold, adding more distal side holes does not improve catheter drainage efficiency. These results may be used to enhance catheter design towards improving their drainage efficiency.