A medical study by Duke Kunshan professor Weiwei Shi and colleagues in the United States has offered hope of cutting discomfort and injuries caused by urinary tract catheters.
Their research found innovative lubricant-impregnated surfaces could be used to improve patient comfort and safety during catheter insertions.
Up to 25% of hospital patients are fitted with a urinary catheter with the majority experiencing bladder discomfort or urinary tract infections as a result. Long-term complications from urethral damage caused by catheter insertion can also include strictures, incontinence, infertility, and on rare occasions death.
The research team used a pig urethra to simulate the human urinary tract and attached a microforce testing system to measure friction as they inserted catheters with an ultra-slippery lubricant-impregnated surface inspired by the pitcher plant, a carnivorous plant type that uses slippery leaves to help trap prey.
They found the use of catheters with a lubricant-impregnated coating cut sliding friction by half, potentially reducing the risk of medical complications that can arise from damage to the urinary tract.
The study could lead to further research, including comparisons of different types of lubricant coating, testing on people and imaging trials to observe reductions in damage to the urinary tract.
Shi, an assistant professor of material science, worked on the study with Jonathan Boreyko, Abby Whittington and David Grant from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, in the United States.