Relief in a Tube: Catheters Remain a Steadfast Treatment for Urinary Disorders
For someone suffering from acute urinary retention, nothing spells relief quite like a catheter. Today's catheters are safe, indispensable diagnostic and treatment tools in many specialties, employed as much to inject fluid as to drain it. In cardiology, for instance, they're the conduit for radiopaque dye to magnify coronary arteries and miniature stents to unblock them. But the history of the catheter belongs to urology—and the process of draining a painfully distended bladder dates to antiquity. Catheterization is one of civiliation's first therapeutic interventions.
Ancient Chinese wrote of using onion stalks, and the Hindus, Egyptians, Romans and Greeks described tubes of wood and precious metals. In America, Founding Father Benjamin Franklin designed a silver coil catheter for his brother in 1752 and likely used it later himself, remarking once that "only three incurable diseases have fallen to my share … the gout, the stone, and old age." By the mid-1800s, catheters had a urological niche, with innovators producing the first variations. Woven, soaked and dried, Louis Mercier's coude or elbow catheter