- Written by David Bloom, M.D. (Medically Reviewed)
For someone suffering from acute urinary retention, nothing spells relief quite like a catheter. Today's catheters are safe, indispensable diagnostic and treatment tools in many specialties, employed as much to inject fluid as to drain it. In cardiology, for instance, they're the conduit for radiopaque dye to magnify coronary arteries and miniature stents to unblock them. But the history of the catheter belongs to urology and the process of draining a painfully distended bladder dates to antiquity. The catheter is one of civilization's first therapeutic interventions.