History of Indwelling Catheters

Indwelling urinary catheters have been utilized to empty the bladder since as early as 3000 B.C. In ancient Greek, the word catheter is derived from the word “kathie´nai”, which literally means ‘‘to thrust into’’ or ‘‘to send down’’ and was primarily used in men for urinary retention. These catheters were rigid and used intermittently.  It was not until the 18th century that urinary catheters were first fashioned from rudimentary rubber materials.

The modern retention balloon catheter was developed as a collaboration between Dr. Frederick E.B. Foley and Charles Russell Bard.  Dr. Foley initiating used the catheter for post-prostatectomy hemostasis. Over time, the use of a balloon self-retaining catheter was used for the management of urinary incontinence. This balloon design (called a retention catheter) allowed for urinary catheters to remain in place (indwelling in the bladder) with a reasonable degree of patient comfort. Furthermore, such a fixed position permitted external collecting devices (e.g. drainage tubing and bag) to be connected to the catheter. These indwelling catheters are commonly referred to as a Foley or Foley catheter.

But these initial catheters were rubber material and used long-term leading to urethritis and urethral strictures, encrustation, and infection. In 1968, catheters constructed from silicone elastomer were introduced and these reduced the incidence of urethritis and rates of encrustation and infection also decreased. Catheters with chemical impregnation and ‘‘antimicrobial’’ coating, particularly silver were released in 2001.

The UroToday Urinary Catheter Reference Centers is a unique educational initiative which brings to clinicians, health-care decision makers and patients the resources to make evidence-based decisions about product selection and tools that support preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infections and other catheter-related complications.

1. Feneley RC, Hopley IB, Wells PN. Urinary catheters: history, current status, adverse events, and research agenda. J Med Eng Technol. 2015;39(8):459-70. doi: 10.3109/03091902.2015.1085600.
2. Foley FEB. 1937, A hemostatic bag catheter. Journal of Urology, 1937,38, 137–139. 15.
3. Maki D.G. & Tambyah PA. Engineering out the risk for infection with urinary catheters. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2001, 7, 342–347.
4. Mangelson NL, Kado RT, & Cockett ATK. 1968, Silicone rubber uses in the lower urinary tract. Journal of Urology, 1968,100, 573–577. 16.

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