Why are Foley catheters so vulnerable to encrustation and blockage by crystalline bacterial biofilm?

Urol Res. 2003 Oct;31(5):306-11. doi: 10.1007/s00240-003-0340-3. Epub 2003 Jul 11.


Many patients undergoing long-term bladder catheterisation experience blockage and encrustation of their catheters. The problem stems from infection by urease producing bacteria, particularly Proteus mirabilis. Bacterial biofilms colonise the catheters, the activity of urease raises the pH and induces the deposition of calcium and magnesium phosphate crystals. In this study, a laboratory model of the catheterised bladder has been used to examine the early stages in the formation of the crystalline biofilms. The results show that initial cell adhesion is to the irregular surfaces surrounding the catheter eye-holes. Microcolonies form in depressions in these surfaces and spread to cover the entire surface of the rims around the eye-holes. Crystals then form around the bacterial populations and the biofilm starts to move down the lumenal surfaces of the catheters. The encrustation develops most extensively and generally blocks the catheter at or just below the eye-hole. There is a need to improve catheter design and manufacturing procedures for the eye-holes if the problems associated with the current devices are to be reduced.

MeSH terms

  • Biofilms*
  • Catheterization*
  • Crystallization
  • Equipment Failure
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Proteus mirabilis*