Urinary catheters: history, current status, adverse events and research agenda

For more than 3500 years, urinary catheters have been used to drain the bladder when it fails to empty. For people with impaired bladder function and for whom the method is feasible, clean intermittent self-catheterization is the optimal procedure.

For those who require an indwelling catheter, whether short- or long-term, the self-retaining Foley catheter is invariably used, as it has been since its introduction nearly 80 years ago, despite the fact that this catheter can cause bacterial colonization, recurrent and chronic infections, bladder stones and septicaemia, damage to the kidneys, the bladder and the urethra, and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. In terms of medical, social and economic resources, the burden of urinary retention and incontinence, aggravated by the use of the Foley catheter, is huge. In the UK, the harm resulting from the use of the Foley catheter costs the National Health Service between £1. 0-2. 5 billion and accounts for ∼2100 deaths per year. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of an alternative indwelling catheter system. The research agenda is for the new catheter to be easy and safe to insert, either urethrally or suprapubically, to be retained reliably in the bladder and to be withdrawn easily and safely when necessary, to mimic natural physiology by filling at low pressure and emptying completely without damage to the bladder, and to have control mechanisms appropriate for all users.

Journal of medical engineering & technology. 2015 Sep 18 [Epub ahead of print]

Roger C L Feneley, Ian B Hopley, Peter N T Wells

a North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Southmead Hospital , Southmead Road , Bristol BS10 5NB , UK . , b Alternative Urological Catheter Systems Ltd, Bramford House , 23 Westfield Park , Bristol BS6 6LT , UK , and. , c Cardiff University, School of Engineering , Queen's Buildings , The Parade, Cardiff CF24 3AA , UK.