Sensor warns medical staff of urinary catheter blockage

A monitoring system offering healthcare providers an early-warning system to accurately predict and aid in the management of one of the most common and painful infections has been developed by university scientists.

Thousands of patients every day in the UK — many of them old, frail and vulnerable — need to have a urinary catheter fitted owing to incontinence or immobility.

But catheters in some of those patients become blocked, leading to pain and other serious complications including kidney and blood infections.

Now, Cardiff University scientists have developed a sensor that fits to a catheter and changes from yellow to blue/black to act as an early-warning system for urinary catheter blockage.

Dr David Williams from Cardiff University’s School of Dentistry led the development of the sensor. He said: ’The implication to a patient’s health if the catheter gets blocked is serious. Not only does it lead to extreme discomfort, but it can potentiate other clinical problems that may prove fatal.

’There is currently no effective method to manage this problem. Catheter blockages remain uncontrollable and unpredictable and are dealt with — more often than not — when it’s too late. This is extremely painful for the patient, frustrating for the doctors and a massive drain on finances.

’By developing the first warning system for urinary catheter blockage, we hope we can offer doctors and nursing staff an accurate way of preventing encrustation before it is too late.’

MBI Wales, which has considerable experience in manufacturing products for the medical industry, has supported the project throughout and has an option to license the manufacture and distribution of the sensor.