Many medical supplies, including catheters and catheter supplies, have expiration dates. In fact, according to the FDA, expired medical supplies are not only less effective but using them increases the risk of bacterial contamination. Catheters specifically can expire. Catheter manufacturers are required to follow regulations and print an expiration or use-by date on every catheter’s packaging.
Why Catheters Expire
An expiration date printed on a catheter’s packaging indicates the sterility of the catheter as well as the package’s integrity. Due to the quality of the materials used to manufacture catheters, they typically do not break down, but the packaging itself could. And, if catheters are unused after that printed expiration date, their sterility may be compromised.
Expired pre-lubricated and hydrophilic catheters risk losing their hydrated coating resulting in an uncomfortable and dry insertion and removal experience during self-catheterization. This could cause trauma to the urethra or lead to a bladder infection.
And if the catheter includes sterile saline solution in a packet for lubrication, it could be compromised after the expiration date. There is a tested time that this solution remains safe, and using a catheter with an included sterile saline packet after the printed expiration date can put you at risk for using a now non-sterile product.
Risk of Using Expired Catheters
When inserting something into the body, it is imperative to be clean, sterile, and fresh. This includes being a catheter with an expiration date that has not passed. To avoid urethral damage and potential infection, it is best to use catheters and catheter supplies before their expiration date.
Although the catheter you are using may look fine even after the expiration date has passed, it is not worth taking the risk of using it. It is always better to know that you are catheterizing safely.