Urinary Catheters - The Basics

A variety of tube-like devices have been used since ancient times to assist urinary drainage from bladders that cannot empty themselves.  The ancient Greeks and Egyptians used reeds and curled up palm leaves, then graduated to silver and gold tubes. Tubes made of silver became popular for bladder drainage until the invention of modern latex and plastics. Interesting to note, some of today’s catheters are actually coated with a soft, pliable, silver alloy that has antibacterial properties and may reduce the incidence of bladder infections in cases where the catheter remains in situ for longer periods.

There are mainly two styles of catheters: Foley catheters and intermittent catheters. Each come in a variety of brands, sizes, with different coatings on them to maximize comfort and potentially reduce urinary infections.

All catheters come in a variety of different materials from latex, non-latex, vinyl, plastic, 100% silicone, silicone-coated, silver alloy coating and red rubber latex. The openings that allow for drainage through the tube are in the tip of the catheters and are usually “polished” so that they do not scratch on insertion or withdrawal.  You can even buy catheters pre-lubricated! Companies continue to develop newer, low-friction material for catheters to better the user’s experience.

It is always best to take the advice of a health care professional when choosing or making changes to your catheter or catheter size.