From Research Lab to "Shark Tank" to Helping Women Everywhere

Dr. Feloney and Dr. Roche-Sanchez

Urethral catheterization is a routine medical procedure that drains the urinary bladder. But a woman’s anatomy can make guiding the catheter difficult.

Until now.

CHI Health Urologist and Urogynecologist Michael Feloney, MD, had an idea for a device that anyone could use to insert a catheter correctly. He teamed up with Sonia Rocha-Sanchez, BS, MS, PhD, a professor of Biomedical Science and assistant dean of research at Creighton University School of Dentistry – and the two designed SimplCath.

“It’s the only device on the market to assist women’s catheterizations in any setting,” Feloney said. “It takes the guesswork out.”

“Up to now, catheters have been designed for the male and adapted for the female urethra,” Rocha-Sanchez said. “This is a unique and simple device designed specifically for the woman’s anatomy.”

SimplCath can be used by medical personnel and caregivers, as well as patients who self catheterize. It can be used in hospitals, nursing homes and clinical environments as a disposable device, or as a reusable device at home.

As part of the trials, nurses just out of nursing school and those with 20 or more years of experience were asked to use the device in the clinical setting.

“Every single nurse was able to insert the catheter correctly on the first attempt,” Rocha-Sanchez said.

Patients ranged from a 21-year-old to a woman in her 70s. One weighed less than 100 pounds; another weighed more than 300 pounds.

One patient in the clinical trial was so excited she told researchers she wanted to keep the test device. Because it allowed her to urinate more easily and independently, she would be able to travel – something she hadn’t done in a long time.

SimplCath can save money by reducing the number of nurses required to catheterize from two to one. It can also reduce the risk of catheter contamination during insertion. Catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) are among the most common infections in hospitals.

Feloney and Rocha-Sanchez were finalists in the Nebraska InnovateHER 2017 Challenge, which looks for products or services that have an impact on the lives of women.

“The competition felt a little like ‘Shark Tank,’ but friendlier,” Rocha-Sanchez said. “We were in front of business people and they were asking about marketing strategy, profit margins and bottom lines.”

The two are making a presentation to the Department of Defense to help provide care to female combatants. “No matter the setting, the SimplCath will change the way we catheterize women,” said Feloney.

Why is urethral catheterization necessary?

  • Lack of urinary control
  • Urinary incontinence
  • Urinary retention
  • Hospitalized, bedridden or unable to walk to restroom

Why are urinary catheterizations difficult to do in women?

  • Location of urethra (inside vagina, above vaginal canal) limits access
  • Women’s bladders vary in size and shape due to age, weight, childbirth, other factors