What is a urinary catheter and what is its history?
A urinary catheter is a soft hollow tube inserted into the bladder to drain urine and occasionally to insert medication and other solution preparations.
The use of urinary catheters is not new. Catheters date back as far as 300BC with reports of them being made from dried reeds, palm leaves, animal skins and cheese glue.¹ Further developments led to metal catheters made from gold, tin, lead and silver.² However, more malleable catheters became available in 1844 with the perfection of the vulcanisation of rubber.³
Rubber is also known as Latex, most of which comes from a single rubber tree called Hevea Brasiliensis native to South America. After natural latex is processed (vulcanised), it becomes a rubber with excellent mechanical properties in that it is tensile, can be elongated, and has tear resistance and resilience.⁴ This is the reason why several latex products, including catheters, are manufactured for healthcare usage.
Note: It is important that you tell your nurse and/or doctor if you have a known latex allergy/sensitivity