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Med Eng Phys. 2005 Jul;27(6):443-53. Epub 2005 Mar 17.

Materials for urinary catheters: a review of their history and development in the UK.

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Department of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.


The Foley catheter, introduced in the mid-1930s and originally manufactured from latex, is still the most commonly used device for the management of urinary incontinence (UI). Despite the passage of time, there are still problems associated with the use of these devices. It is currently estimated that the management and treatment of UI costs the UK National Health Service (NHS) in the order of 500 million pound per annum. Faced with the known demographic changes in the adult population these costs will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. This review examines the range of materials currently used to manufacture Foley catheters from both latex and silicone. It outlines the common problems associated with their clinical use-infection, encrustation and blockage. The main changes that have been made to the materials employed in response to these problems are analysed. In the first instance the use of controlled release glass and slow release polymers to introduce disinfectants and antibacterial agents is considered. Attempts to alter surface properties by using coatings based on silver, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), hydrogels and silicone are then described. It can be seen that despite these approaches, problems remain with the design and materials currently used to manufacture catheters. The review concludes that changes to the materials currently used for the manufacture of commercially available catheters could potentially alleviate many of the existing problems. However, standards need to be developed in order to enable direct comparison of the mechanical and physical properties of existing and potential catheter designs to ensure their effective function in-service.

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