A catheter is a thin tubular device that is inserted into the body to perform some medical function. Made from a range of pliable medical grade materials like silicone, rubber, nylon, polyurethane and polyethylene terephthalate (PET), catheters are inserted into a body cavity, duct, or vessel to drain or administer fluids or gases. The process of inserting a catheter is known as “catheterisation”.

Catheters are widely used in diverse medical fields like cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurovascular, and ophthalmic applications, but we will mainly discuss its application in urology.

A bladder dysfunction is harmful to kidney health and encourages infection, as it impairs a person’s ability to expel urine. It can also lower one’s quality of life by affecting personal independence, self-esteem and confidence. In a worst-case scenario, untreated urinary problems can lead to urosepsis (infection of the blood) and skin damage, which can severely afflict patients.

A bladder dysfunction is treatable and can be managed through medical intervention, with treatments typically including medication, bladder retraining and catheterisation. We will look at how someone can use a catheter to empty the bladder.

  • Intermittent self-catheterisation is a short-term method of catheterisation, where the user inserts a thin tube through the urethra into the bladder. This is performed by the user, as and when needs arise throughout the day with single-use catheters.
  • For longer-term needs, an indwelling urinary catheter may be inserted into the bladder through the urethra, but with an inflatable balloon at the bladder end to keep the catheter in position. The outside end of the catheter leads either to a collection bag or may have a valve so that urine can be emptied straight into the toilet.
  • For a more permanent solution to bladder problems where an indwelling urinary catheter may be inadequate, a suprapubic catheter may be employed. For this method, a tube is surgically passed through the abdominal wall directly into the bladder, without going through the urethra, and is replaced every six to eight weeks.

Risk of UTI from catheterisation

As useful as catheters are for relieving dysfunctional bladders in patients, they are not without their shortcomings. As the tube provides a route for bacteria or fungi to enter the bladder, the microbes can multiply and lead to what is called a Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI). CAUTI is one of the most common healthcare-associated infections (HCAI) a person can contract in the hospital, and indwelling catheters are a major cause of CAUTI, although they also occur with suprapubic catheter use. Infection can occur with catheterisation when:

  • the catheter becomes contaminated during insertion
  • the drainage bag is not emptied frequently enough
  • faecal bacteria gets on the catheter
  • urine in the catheter bag flows backwards into the bladder
  • the catheter is not regularly cleaned

How UroShield helps prevent CAUTI

UroShield is a compact external medical device that generates low-frequency, low-intensity ultrasound waves to prevent bacterial biofilm from forming on catheters. The action of the ultrasonic waves run along the full length of the catheter, up into the balloon and down into the bag, both on the outside and inside surfaces of the catheter. The ultrasound gently vibrates the catheter to stop the bacteria from adhering to the catheter and forming the biofilm – preventing infections from developing.

If biofilm is present, UroShield helps to break up the protective layer surrounding the biofilm which is normally impenetrable to antibiotics, allowing the antibiotics access to the bacteria and curing the infection. The vibrations also prevent catheter encrustation and blockage, caused by crystalline deposits of mineral salts in the urine. UroShield also helps to reduce catheter-associated bladder spasms and pain, and is effective for any kind of catheter, both urethral and suprapubic.

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This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.