Emptying the painful, overfilled bladder was a common problem since ancient times. Early documents mentioned reeds, straws and curled-up palm leaves to accomplish catheterisation. The Chinese used the leaves of Welsh onions. When properly dried and sometimes covered with Chinese lacquer, the hollow leaves made excellent catheters.
The Sumerians may even have used gold to make catheters. It can be assumed that the catheter came to Europe from East Asia. However, the term "catheter" was derived from the Greek connotation "to let down into".