Born in Sweden 1983, LoFric was the world’s first hydrophilic catheter – a true revolution at the time. Finally, self-catheterisation became a real, viable option for people with bladder problems. Since then, LoFric has improved the everyday for thousands of people around the world, helping them to lead a more balanced life.
The word “catheter” comes from Greek and means “to let or send down.” Historical evidence shows that catheters were used as early as 3,000 B.C. to relieve painful urinary retention. In those times, many different materials were used to form a hollow catheter shape, including straws, rolled up palm leaves, hollow tops of onions, as well as metals like gold, silver, copper, brass, and lead.
Thankfully, catheterisation has come a long way since then, but the basic principle has remained the same. A thin tube is inserted into the urethra until the top reaches the bladder and lets the urine flow out at the bottom.
Ancient methods, despite being both painful and harmful, offered a necessary relief. Urine retention can quickly become a serious situation and catheterisation is nothing but a matter of life and death.
Dealing with such profound questions, it’s easy to understand why the team behind LoFric was very passionate about finding a new and better way to catheterise.
Before LoFric, indwelling catheters were the most common solution for catheterisation. Although self-catheterisation existed as an alternative, it was inconvenient, messy (gels were used with older catheters) and much less effective. Damages to the urethra and infections were constant recurring problems.
Wellspect has a long history of producing innovative medical solutions and always begins the product design process by understanding user needs. Working in close cooperation with both users and healthcare professionals always inspires us on how to improve products and therapy. Minimising the risks of urethral trauma, bleeding and strictures was the main objective when developing the first LoFric catheter.
Thanks to the relentless work done by Jan Utas, at the time Director of R&D Urology at Wellspect and his colleague Håkan Melander, R&D Scientist, the LoFric catheter with its unique surface came into production.
We kept on treating the catheter with different solutions until we got the right coating,” says Jan Utas.
And when the production machine for the catheters arrived in February 1983, the research team practically moved into the production facility for half a year to get production going. Their dedication paid off, and in August 1983 the new and hydrophilic catheter LoFric was ready for launch.
LoFric quickly gained admirers among healthcare professionals, who saw its huge potential. But there were still some bumps left in the road before the perfect balance was found. As the number of users increased, a few of them found that the catheter, despite the slippery sensation, tended to be difficult to pull out.
We suspected it had to do with the osmolality (the concentration of particles in the coating). So, we developed a new formulation that made the coating isotonic to urine, and it worked’, says Jan Utas.
The improved LoFric with its new, balanced surface (with our unique Urotonic Surface Technology), was received even better. One of the early adopters was Doctor Lars Sullivan at the Sahlgrenska Hospital neurosurgery clinic in Gothenburg. He introduced LoFric to his spinal injury patients, who previously had to use in-dwelling catheters, with urine collection bags, that had to be changed by healthcare professionals.
We wanted to find an alternative to this type of catheter,” says Jan Utas. “Being able to empty the bladder yourself normalises life in a way by making living with catheterisation less of an issue.
Since then, the Urotonic™ Surface Technology has been LoFric’s special trademark. But even if the unique, balanced surface has remained unmatched for almost 40 years, LoFric has been in continuous development. The most obvious proof of it is that nowadays LoFric is no longer just a single catheter but a whole family of catheters that offers a solution for almost every user need.
No other catheter has been able to match LoFric’s outstanding coating! So, we decided to take on the challenge of improving upon it ourselves. In line with Wellspect’s continuous sustainability work, we recently updated our surface coating manufacturing. By reducing the amount of water needed in the process, minimising the use of chemicals and changing to a 100% bio-based solvent, we have managed to cut the coating process carbon footprint in half. Of course, without compromising on the LoFric surface quality in any way.
We strongly believe that our innovations should increase the well-being of our users, but not at the expense of the planet. And now LoFric is in even more in balance with both body and nature.