Intermittent catheterisation is a commonly recommended procedure for people with incomplete bladder emptying. There are now several designs of intermittent catheter (e.g. different lengths, 'ready to use' presentation) with different materials (e.g. PVC-free) and coatings (e.g. hydrophilic). The most frequent complication of intermittent catheterisation is urinary tract infection (UTI), but satisfaction, preference and ease of use are also important to users. It is unclear which catheter designs, techniques or strategies affect the incidence of UTI, which are preferable to users and which are most cost effective.
To compare one type of catheter design versus another, one type of catheter material versus another, aseptic catheterisation technique versus clean technique, single-use (sterile) catheters versus multiple-use (clean) catheters, self-catheterisation versus catheterisation by others and any other strategies designed to reduce UTI and other complications or improve user-reported outcomes (user satisfaction, preference, ease of use) and cost effectiveness in adults and children using intermittent catheterisation for incomplete bladder emptying.
We searched the Cochrane Incontinence Group Specialised Register, which contains trials identified from the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, MEDLINE in process, and handsearching of journals and conference proceedings (searched 30 September 2013), the reference lists of relevant articles and conference proceedings, and we attempted to contact other investigators for unpublished data or for clarification.
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or randomised cross-over trials comparing at least two different catheter designs, catheterisation techniques or strategies.
Two review authors assessed the methodological quality of trials and abstracted data. For dichotomous variables, risk ratios and 95% confidence intervals were derived for each outcome where possible. For continuous variables, mean differences and 95% confidence intervals were calculated for each outcome. Because of trial heterogeneity, it was not always possible to combine data to give an overall estimate of treatment effect.
Thirty-one trials met the inclusion criteria, including 13 RCTs and 18 cross-over trials. Most were small (less than 60 participants completed), although five trials had more than 100 participants. There was considerable variation in length of follow-up and definitions of UTI. Participant dropout was a problem for several trials, particularly where there was long-term follow-up to measure incidence of UTI. Fifteen trials were more than 10 years old and focused mainly on comparing different catheterisation techniques (e.g. single versus multiple-use) on clinical outcomes whereas, several more recent trials have focused on comparing different types of catheter designs or materials, especially coatings, and user preference. It was not possible to combine data from some trials owing to variations in the catheters tested and in particular the catheter coatings. Where there were data, confidence intervals around estimates were wide and hence clinically important differences in UTI and other outcomes could neither be identified nor reliably ruled out. No study assessed cost-effectiveness.
Despite a total of 31 trials, there is still no convincing evidence that the incidence of UTI is affected by use of aseptic or clean technique, coated or uncoated catheters, single (sterile) or multiple-use (clean) catheters, self-catheterisation or catheterisation by others, or by any other strategy. Results from user-reported outcomes varied. The current research evidence is weak and design issues are significant. More well-designed trials are strongly recommended. Such trials should include analysis of cost-effectiveness because there are likely to be substantial differences associated with the use of different catheter designs, catheterisation techniques and strategies.