Coating reduces catheter pain and infection risk

Friday, 06 March, 2020

Coating reduces catheter pain and infection risk

Users of urinary catheters will benefit from significantly reduced pain and infection risk thanks to a new antimicrobial coating.

Developed by researchers at the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast, the coating is applied to urinary catheters and other medical devices, with the potential to improve quality of life for millions of catheter users worldwide.

Made from a unique mix of polymers, resulting in low friction to reduce the pain and discomfort of catheterisation, the coating contains antimicrobial properties that protect the user from harmful microbes that can cause disease and, in some cases, death.

In collaboration with the University of Leeds, the Queen’s University researchers have published their findings in ACS Applied Bio Materials.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) associated with catheter use are one of the most common types of infection that affect people staying in hospital. This risk is particularly high if the catheter is left in place continuously (an indwelling catheter) with approximately 50% of long-term catheterised patients experiencing recurrent episodes of catheter infections and blockages.

Dr Nicola Irwin, Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Materials Science and first author on the paper, said, “Patients with poor control over their bladder function, for example those with urinary retention or drainage problems caused by neurological conditions such as spina bifida or spinal cord injuries, may need [to be] catheterised up to eight times a day.

“Insertion and removal of poorly lubricated catheters causes friction between the urethral walls and the device surface, which is not only extremely painful for the patient, but upon regular use can lead to damage and narrowing of the urethra, bleeding and infection.”

Professor Colin McCoy, Chair in Biomaterials Chemistry and co-author of the research, explained, “People who use medical devices such as catheters on a daily basis are at high risk of persistent low-level infections, which, over time, can cause antibiotic resistance.

“Antibiotic resistance is one [of] the biggest global threats to society today and leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased risk of infection and even death.

“It is vitally important we provide an alternative to the currently used devices, which have not changed much since their introduction almost 100 years ago despite their widespread clinical [use] and many associated limitations.”

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