Living with a urinary catheter

The catheter of the future: what catheter users say they'd like

The Foley catheter is still one of the most commonly used devices for managing urinary incontinence, although it is only recommended for that purpose as a last resort. Since its introduction in 1937, its design as an indwelling catheter has not fundamentally changed. Device manufacturers have tried many modifications to lessen the risk of trauma and infection associated with these catheters. Improvements in materials have been made from the original latex rubber to silicone, and a variety of coatings such as Teflon and hydrogel have been used. The size and shape of the drainage eyes have been modified to enhance urine flow and reduce clogging. Antiseptic and antibiotic coatings on catheters have also been applied to combat the bacteria introduced into the bladder by the catheter. However, the results of these changes have been inconclusive and the Foley catheter design is believed to be a major cause for many of the complications, including urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder spasms, cystitis, and possibly an increased risk of bladder cancer. Many health professionals and catheter users would welcome a new urinary drainage system that can reduce infection and morbidity.

Some people we interviewed said they’d like a catheter that would allow them more independence including, for example, a device that would allow those with limited use of their hands to empty the drainage bag themselves, and a catheter they could change themselves. Hayley said she’d like to be able to open her own catheter valve without relying on her carer to do it.

Some people felt strongly about ‘having a bag of urine strapped to the leg’ and wanted a newly designed catheter that would be more discreet. Ian would prefer a less intrusive catheter than a suprapubic one and Dave would prefer something smaller and less visible.

Several people wondered why a new design hadn’t yet been introduced, especially since other medical technology has advanced greatly. Others said they’d like a new catheter designed to solve their specific problems. These included wanting a catheter that:

  • doesn’t cause UTIs and blockages
  • doesn’t pull
  • doesn’t cause trauma around the catheter site, soreness or overgrowth of granulation
  • doesn’t separate from the leg bag, causing leaks
  • can be used with a catheter valve that can be cleaned and re-used rather than changed for a new one every week

A few people said that they were satisfied with the current design because most of the time it had worked well and they’d had few complications. Others said they couldn’t think of ways in which indwelling catheters could be improved or hadn’t thought about it.

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Last reviewed October 2018.


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