When catheters were first created, it was normal practice to reuse them because resources and availability were limited. Today, however, the use of catheters has evolved to become safer, more hygienic, and less expensive.
Recent studies show that sterile intermittent catheters may lessen the risk of urinary tract infections. Although there is research as well as intermittent catheters being designated as single-use devices by the FDA, some people still choose to reuse their catheters. Some may do this because they think it’s more cost-effective or environmentally friendly. However, they may be putting themselves at risk for potential infection.
Is It Safe to Reuse Catheters?
In the early 2000s, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did research to find out if reusing catheters was safe. In 2002, the FDA came to the conclusion that they could not approve washing and reusing catheters under any circumstances.
During the FDA’s testing, 67% of catheters that were considered “adequately sanitized” still tested positive for bacteria and pathogens. Not even antibacterial soap or typical home sterilization techniques fully sanitized the intermittent catheters. From this study, the FDA concluded that reusing catheters could lead to an increased risk of infection.
Catheters are made of a unique porous material that allows bacteria and other residual tissue inside during use, causing the catheter to no longer be sterile. In addition, factors such as poor cleaning techniques and non-sterile storage methods may further contaminate the catheter.
That’s why sterile intermittent catheterization is the most ideal and safest way to cath. Per FDA guidelines, any intermittent catheter should be disposed of immediately after use.
The risk to one’s health far outweighs the cost or environmental concerns that lead people to reuse their catheters.
What are the Risks of Reusing Catheters?
If you’re reusing catheters, you may be more susceptible to:
- UTIs (urinary tract infections)
- Bladder infections
- Kidney infections
- Urethral damage or scar tissue build-up
The primary cause of infection risk is due to bacteria still inside and on the surface of an intermittent catheter after use. In research studies, not even thorough lab-based cleaning of catheters could fully sterilize them for use again.
Additionally, if a catheter is reused often over a long period of time, its material may begin to break down. As catheter material begins to break down, the catheter becomes more porous and may trap more bacteria; additionally, the catheter itself may also become rough and coarse leading to more painful catheterization or damage to the urethra.
Hydrophilic catheters have a smooth, slippery surface which is designed to make intermittent self-catheterization easier and help reduce the risk of infection. These types of catheters should never be used more than once. After the hydrophilic catheter is removed, the slick, pre-lubricated surface is gone, and reusing it will result in friction.
What are the Benefits of Single-Use Catheters?
In contrast, you may find there are numerous benefits to switching to sterile intermittent catheterization (using a catheter one time and then disposing of it).
Benefits may include:
- Reduced risk of UTIs and bladder infections
- More time freed up by no longer washing and
- Healthier lifestyle and more energy
- Confidence that your catheter supplies are
sterile to use every time
- Reduced chance of urethral damage
If you have to use catheters and you’re contemplating reusing them, it’s good to consider the potential risks when weighing your options.
It’s best to consult your healthcare professional with questions about your health. However, if you need more information about your product options for sterile catheters, our specialists at Personally Delivered will be glad to help you find the perfect solution to your catheter needs.