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Ben Franklin made a silver coil catheter for his brother in 1752.

occasional treatment for calculi, prostatic obstructions or urethral inflammation. They were treated with catheter drainage of their dysfunctioning bladders. For decades, urologists advocated sterile intermittent techniques because of potential bacteria. But only when University of Michigan urologist Jack Lapides introduced clean intermittent self-catheterization in 1971 did it come to light that germs were not the only cause of urinary tract infections (UTIs), but that persistent stagnant urinary residuals were also culprits. Lapides also showed that intermittent catheterization, even if not done in totally sterile conditions, was still safer than an indwelling catheter.

Lapides proved, first with a multiple sclerosis sufferer, that neurogenic bladder patients didn't require cumbersome sterilization techniques. Instead, they could routinely self-catheterize with a simple, clean approach based on mapping their own urethral landmarks and suffer no bacterial consequences. By learning his technique in a day, they'd have personal control for life.

Few measures would be as helpful as clean intermittent self-catherization. Three decades after the initial rancorous debate over the technique, millions of neurogenic patients can testify to its merits.

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