The History of Catheters
Catheters and catheter supplies have come a long way baby, and how. According to this article at UroToday, the urinary catheter you use daily could have, at one point, been made from straw, silver, rolled up paper, non-vulcanized rubber (so it could melt at body temperature- yikes!), among other materials. Fascinating!
Since man could fashion tools, or maybe a little after, he fashioned catheters. As early as 3,000 B.C., catheters relieved bladder distension in men and women. I don't have the stats here on infection rates or accidental injuries from using such crude tools to cath, but the important part is that medical technology has always existed because we've always needed it. You do what you can with what you have, and sometimes, if that means using a metal catheter, then so be it.
It wasn't until the 1800s that catheters even became sized. Catheters should not be one size fits all! Of course doctors probably realized this but didn't have the technology to create or shape multiple catheter sizes (known as the French size) or in bulk amounts. Using the wrong size catheter can be extremely painful and causes abrasions of the urethra giving bacteria a way to infect. It was also during this time that physicians began discussing catheter induced infections and how to prevent them.
In 1935, Dr Foley invented indwelling, or Foley catheters, for patients who need constant catheterization and these first catheters had to be either sutured or tied on to the genitals. And it wasn't until World War II that sterile catheterization became the norm. Before then it was assumed that catheters, if washed, could be reused by the same patient, or, if in a pinch, a different patient. We knew a lot less about bacterial infections then that we do now, and we have better access to clean medical supplies than we did then. Clean intermittent catheterization (where not just the catheter is sterile, but the genitals are cleaned with antiseptic first) didn't become the norm until the 1970s.