In medicine a catheter is a tube that can be inserted into a body cavity, duct or vessel. Catheters thereby allow drainage, injection of fluids or access by surgical instruments. The process of inserting a catheter is catheterization. In most uses a catheter is a thin, flexible tube ("soft" catheter), although in some uses it is a larger, solid tube ("hard" catheter). A catheter left inside the body, either temporarily or permanently, may be referred to as an indwelling catheter. A permanently inserted catheter may be referred to as a permcath.
The ancient Syrians created catheters from reeds. "Katheter" originally referred to an instrument that was inserted such as a plug. The word "katheter" in turn came from "kathiemai" meaning "to sound" with a probe. The ancient Greeks inserted a hollow metal tube through the urethra into the bladder to empty it and the tube came to be known as a "katheter".
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