Types of indwelling urinary catheters for long-term bladder drainage in adults

Prolonged urinary catheterization is common amongst people in long-term care settings, for example in nursing homes or home care. In addition, many people living in the community need to have a permanent catheter. Long-term catheterization was defined as for more than 30 days. We identified only three trials involving 102 adults in various settings. All three trials were too small to provide reliable evidence to indicate which types of catheters are best to use in which patients.

Authors' conclusions: 

The updated search could not reveal any additional evidence. Very few trials have compared different types of catheter for long-term bladder drainage. All trials were small and showed methodological weaknesses. Therefore, the evidence was not sufficient as a reliable basis for practical conclusions. Further, better quality trials are needed to address the current lack of evidence in this clinically important area.

Read the full abstract...

Prolonged urinary catheterization is common amongst people in long-term care settings and this carries a high risk of developing a catheter-related urinary tract infection and associated complications. A variety of different kinds of urethral catheters are available. Some have been developed specifically to lower the risk of catheter-associated infection, for example antiseptic or antibiotic impregnated catheters. Ease of use, comfort and handling for the caregivers and patients, and cost-effectiveness are also important factors influencing choice.


The primary objective was to determine which type of indwelling urinary catheter is best to use for long-term bladder drainage in adults.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialised Register (last searched 31 March 2011), which includes searches of CENTRAL, MEDLINE and handsearching of journals and conference proceedings, and the reference lists of relevant articles.

Selection criteria: 

All randomised trials comparing types of indwelling urinary catheters for long-term catheterization in adults. Long-term catheterization was defined as more than 30 days.

Data collection and analysis: 

Data extraction has been undertaken by two review authors working independently and simultaneously. Any disagreement has been resolved by a third review author. The included trial data were handled according to the methods of the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

Main results: 

Three trials were included, involving 102 adults in various settings. Two trials had a parallel group design and one was a randomised cross-over trial.

Only two of the six targeted comparisons were assessed by these trials: antiseptic impregnated catheters versus standard catheters (one trial) and one type of standard catheter versus another standard catheter (two trials).

The single small cross-over trial was inadequate to assess the value of silver alloy (antiseptic) impregnated catheters. In the two trials comparing different types of standard catheters, estimates of differences were all imprecise because the trials also had small sample sizes; confidence intervals (CI) were too wide to rule out clinically important differences. One trial did suggest, however, that the use of a hydrogel coated latex catheter rather than a silicone catheter may be better tolerated (risk ratio (RR) for need for early removal 0.41, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.77).