The catheter is an established stand-by procedure despite that fact that there hasn't been a single positive study to support its use in 20 years. And two more studies published recently only add to this negative picture.
One study involved 5051 patients who were fitted with catheters either before high-risk surgery, or while they were in intensive care, or being treated for severe heart failure. The researchers found that patients without a catheter fared just as well, and death rates were the same for both the catheter and non-catheter groups.
The second study, which involved 433 patients with severe heart failure, also could find no benefits with catheter use. In fact, the catheters were responsible for 22 per cent more adverse events, although at least they didn't kill anyone.
So, in the face of all this evidence, will the doctor finally throw away the catheter? Now, repeat after us, medicine is a belief system, not a science . . . (J Am Med Assoc, 2005; 294: 1625-33).