The History of Catheters

history of catheters blog header

You might think catheters are a relatively new invention. While it’s true that catheter technology is constantly advancing, the idea of a tube to drain the bladder has been around for centuries now.

In fact, it’s been documented that catheters were used around 3,000 BC. Of course, back in those days, they didn’t have the technology to be able to manufacture catheters in flexible, sterile materials, so they had to use what was available to them. Ancient Syrians used hollow vegetation such as reeds to relieve built-up urine in the bladder.

Later on, catheters were made in brass, copper, gold, lead, and silver. Silver is still used in certain medical fields due to its antiseptic functions. Benjamin Franklin, the famous inventor as well as one of the forefathers of the United States, had a hand in the creation of a silver catheter, which was originally was for use by his brother, John. He wanted to make the process of catheterization less painful for John, and so he worked with a local smithy on a new design for a more
flexible catheter of silver.

New materials continued to be discovered and used, as the quest to find a more comfortable gentlecath red rubber catheterand flexible catheter went on. The first catheters made of rubber were developed in the 1700s was more flexible, certainly, but natural rubber weakens easily when warm and becomes brittle when cold. Rubber catheters during this period of time would sometimes disintegrate or weaken at body temperature, leaving debris behind in the urethra and bladder. In the 1800s, Charles Goodyear formulated the concept of vulcanization of rubber, which was later patented in 1844 by Thomas Hancock. This advent, which improved the overall quality of rubber, revolutionized its production, and soon the majority of catheters were made of vulcanized rubber, and later in the 20th century, latex rubber became the most popular material of choice.

Overall, catheterization was a safe procedure, but there were still cases of infections. After World War II, there were many disabled veterans, many of whom had spinal cord injuries and other ailments that required them to use catheters
after the war. Infections were the last thing they needed to deal with on top of their other ailments. This is when the concept of sterile catheterization was introduced by Ludwig Guttman, a British neurologist at the time who is now considered to be one of the founding fathers of organized physical activities for people with disabilities (including the Paralympic Games in England). It was noted that this practice helped to reduce the occurrence of infections.

In time, other materials began to be utilized as technology continued to advance, including PVC (poly-vinyl-chloride) and silicone. Today, advancements in catheter technology are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were even 20 years ago. Intermittent catheters exist in many materials, sizes, brands, and types – including hydrophilic catheters, pre-lubricated, closed systems, pediatric sizes, catheters in lengths for both men and women, and more.

180 Medical has been around for over twelve years now, and we certainly know our specialty well. Contact us today to find the right catheter for
your needs, so you can experience the 180 Medical difference.


Other References:

Carr, H. A. (2000). “A short history of the Foley catheter: from handmade instrument to infection-prevention device.”
Lapides, J., A. C. Diokno, A.C., et al. (1972). “Clean,
intermittent self-catheterization in the treatment of urinary tract
disease.” J Urology 107(3): 458-461.

J Endourol 7(2): 89-92.
Mattelaer, J. J. and I. Billiet. (1995). “Catheters and sounds: the history of bladder catheterisation.”
Paraplegia 33(8): 429-433.
Nacey, J. and B. Delahunt. (1993). “The evolution and development of the urinary catheter.” Aust N Z J Surg 63(10): 815-819.

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About the Author
Jessica is the Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical and has been a part of the 180 family for over 9 years. In her downtime, she enjoys creative writing, making art, seeing new places, and spending time with her loved ones.