People with spinal injuries have to use catheters to empty their bladders. These devices are typically single use and have to be changed to avoid urinary tract infections, which are so common in people in wheelchairs. However, one recent research said that there is no risk in washing and reusing the catheter. This didn’t sound right to a Vancouver clinician and researcher Dr. Andrei Krassioukov.
Researcher had talked to wheelchair athletes and noticed that sports people from wealthier countries changed catheters after every use. Meanwhile ones from poorer places had to reuse their catheters and suffered a larger number of urinary tract infections. This was a definitive proof to Krassioukov, pushing him to gather an international team of researchers to review the study, published Cochrane – a well-established organization that collects data from many studies and provides evidence for best practices in medicine. Krassioukov’s team found many errors, which caused these conclusions to be withdrawn.
Catheters have been a subject of debates in the medical world for quite some time. It seems like there were two camps. Some argued that reusing the catheter – a common practice in many countries, should not be viewed as something risky. These catheters cost from $5 to $30. In many countries, healthcare systems cover their cost, but in some countries patients have to buy their own. This, of course, encourages reusing the catheter, which, as Krassioukov argues, increases the risk of infections by three-to-four times, judging by the information, collected during these talks with athletes. It seems like a new and clean catheter is always the safer bet.
There were efforts to create safe sterilization techniques to allow reusing this item. However, so far they were unsuccessful and reusing the catheter can introduce bacteria to the urinary tract, causing painful infections. Krassioukov said: “Until evidence can confidently demonstrate that multiple use is as safe as single use, health-care providers should advocate for single-use of catheters since catheter cleaning is a major issue”.
This non-reliable research is a major problem. It does affect how healthcare professionals treat the patients. All similar studies have to be reviewed by multiple teams of scientists until their results can be deemed trustworthy.