Hospital Infection Control

Catheter-related UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)

  • Vascular Catheter-Related BSIs

  • Mechanical Circulating Support-Related BSIs

What are the key principles of preventing catheter-related UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)?

1. Limit unnecessary catheterization, using urinary catheters only when indicated. (See Table I)

Table I.

Indications for urinary catheterization
Perioperative use for selected surgical procedures
Assistance in pressure ulcer healing for incontinent residents
Urine output monitoring in critically ill patients
Management of acute urinary retention and urinary obstruction
As an exception, at patient request to improve comfort

2. Insert indwelling catheters using aseptic technique and sterile equipment.

3. Catheter management

  • Remove catheter as soon as possible. Daily evaluation of the need for indwelling catheter is paramount.

  • Use a continuously closed drainage system with ports in the distal catheter for needle aspiration of urine.

  • Place the drainage bag and connecting tube below the level of the bladder, maintaining unobstructed urinary flow.

  • Irrigate catheters only when indicated.

  • Obtain urine samples aseptically.

  • Practice hand hygiene and standard (or appropriate isolation) precautions according to CDC HICPAC guidelines.

4. Implement infection prevention programs

  • Healthcare facilities should develop and maintain policies and procedures for recommended urinary catheter insertion indications, insertion and maintenance techniques, discontinuation strategies, and replacement indications.

  • Educate medical personnel, caregivers, and patients on the appropriate indications, aseptic placement technique, and management of indwelling urinary catheters.

5. Consider alternatives to indwelling catheters including condom catheters or in and out catheterization, where appropriate.

What are the conclusions of clinical trials and meta-analyses regarding the control of catheter-related UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)?

1. In a Cochrane review, Niël-Weise et al found that there is evidence that suprapubic catheters have advantages over indwelling catheters in respect of bacteriuria, recatheterization and discomfort. The clinical significance of bacteriuria was uncertain, however, and there was no information about possible complications or adverse effects during catheter insertion. The review also revealed more limited evidence that the use of intermittent catheterization was also associated with a lower risk of bacteriuria than indwelling urethral catheterization, but might be more costly. Using intermittent catheterization postoperatively limits catheterization to those people who definitely need it.

2. A Cochrane review in 2006 was aimed at establishing the optimal way to manage urinary catheters following urogenital surgery in adults in order to minimize complications. Despite reviewing 39 eligible trials, few firm conclusions could be reached due to study limitations. Whether or not to use a particular policy is usually a trade-off between the risks of morbidity (especially infection) and risks of recatheterization.

3. A Cochrane review in 2005 evaluated whether certain antibiotic policies are better than others in terms of prevention of urinary tract infections. The authors concluded that there was weak evidence that antibiotic prophylaxis reduced the rate of UTI in female patients with abdominal surgery and a urethral catheter for 24 hours. There was limited evidence that receiving antibiotics during the first three postoperative days or from postoperative day two until catheter removal decreased the rate of bacteriuria in surgical patients with indwelling catheters for at least 24 hours postoperatively. There was also limited evidence that prophylactic antibiotics reduced bacteriuria in non-surgical patients.

4. A prospective, randomized comparative trial reported that the use of external condom catheter drainage for men compared with a short-term indwelling urethral catheter reduced acquisition of bacteriuria and adverse outcomes and was more acceptable to the patient.

5. A randomized study reported that in-and-out catheterization was as effective as the use of an indwelling catheter for management of postoperative retention.

6. A randomized, controlled trial comparing suprapubic and urethral catheterization for men undergoing elective laparotomy reported a similar incidence of urinary infection in the 2 groups. Current evidence is not sufficient to support the routine use of a suprapubic catheter for short-term catheterization to prevent symptomatic urinary infection or other complications.

What are the consequences of ignoring the prevention and control of catheter-related UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections)?

The consequences of ignoring concepts related to catheter-related urinary tract infection (CRUTI) prevention are numerous and include patient morbidity, mortality, discomfort, and financial cost. Some of the most common complications of CRUTI include cystitis, pyelonephritis, gram-negative bacteremia, prostatitis, epididymitis, and orchitis in males. Less commonly, patients may develop septic arthritis, endocarditis, vertebral osteomyelitis, meningitis, and endophthalmitis. These potentially preventable complications lead to prolonged hospital stay and tremendous financial costs (see "role and impact" below). It is estimated that each episode of CRUTI costs at least $600, and each episode of urinary tract–related bacteremia costs at least $2800. Furthermore, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandate on preventing hospital acquired conditions has included CRUTI as one of the ten categories that Medicare will no longer offer reimbursement for treatment. The mortality associated with CRUTI is quite alarming. Each year, CRUTIs lead to more than 13,000 deaths.

Summary of current controversies.

Prophylactic antibiotics in patients with urinary catheters - A cochrane review by Niël-Weise et al found weak evidence that antibiotic prophylaxis compared to giving antibiotics when clinically indicated reduced the rate of symptomatic urinary tract infection in female patients with abdominal surgery and a urethral catheter for 24 hours. There was no evidence regarding the rates of allergic reactions or other side effects from the antibiotics, nor about the chance of developing bacteria with antibiotic resistance. Currently, routine antibiotic prophylaxis in patients with urinary catheters is not recommended.

Antiseptic or antimicrobial-impregnated catheters - The CDC reports antimicrobial-impregnated catheters (such as silver-alloy coated catheters), may decrease the risk of Catheter-related UTI. However, current data on the clinical benefit of such devices are also limited. CDC recommendations state that antimicrobial/antiseptic-impregnated catheters should be considered only if the CRUTI rate in a facility is not decreasing despite implementing and documenting adherence to the core strategies to reduce the risk of CRUTI. Certain high-risk patients may also benefit from these catheters, but more research is needed.

Screening catheterized patients for asymptomatic bacteriuria - Routine screening of catheterized patients for ASB is not recommended. Such screening may be warranted in certain clinical situations.

What is the impact of catheter-related UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections), and what is the need for control relative to infections at other sites or from other specific pathogens?

Urinary catheters are ubiquitous in nearly all health care settings, but they are most often used in acute care hospitals (including ICUs); long-term care facilities; and in persons with injured spinal cords. At some point in their hospital stay, 12-16% of hospital inpatients will have a urinary catheter placed. With their common use, come significant morbidity, mortality, and cost. Catheter-related UTI is the most common healthcare–associated infection (HAI) in the United States and worldwide. In the United States, UTI accounts for 40% of all HAI's with the majority of infections (80%) resulting from an indwelling urinary catheter. Indeed, in catheterized patients, the daily risk of acquiring a UTI varies from 3% to 10%. Even when comorbid conditions and other factors are accounted for, the data suggest that catheter-related infection portends a nearly threefold increased risk of dying.[16] In the United States alone, more than 13,000 deaths per year are linked to CRUTI.

Not to be overlooked, the financial burden of CRUTI is immense. In 2007, Klevens et al estimated the incidence and financial impact of the top five healthcare associated infections in the Unites States. There were approximately 450,000 CRUTI's; which was over 1.5 times greater than the next most common HAI, surgical site infections (see Table II).

Table II.

Average attributable per patient costs of HAI by selected sites of infection (low estimate)
SSI $11,087
CLABSI $6,461
VAP $14,816
CR-UTI $749
CDI $5,682

The CDC has estimated the average attributable per patient costs of HAI's by selected sites of infection and reports that Catheter-related UTI has the lowest cost in comparison to the other most common sites of HAI (see Table III). However, CRUTI is by far the most common HAI, further illustrating the importance of sound infection control methods to curtail this burden. Without adjusting for inflation, estimates from one university hospital (based on data approximately 20 years ago) were that hospital-acquired UTI led to about $204,000 in additional expenses per year. It is important to note that while CRUTI's represent the greatest burden comparatively among HAI's, they provide the greatest opportunity for improvement. Simply limiting unnecessary catheter use and, when indicated, limiting duration of use would likely have a dramatic impact on CRUTI rates.

Table III.

Estimated number of HAI's by site of infection
Major site of Infection Estimated Number of Infections
Healthcare-Associated Infection (all HAI) 1,737,125
Surgical Site Infection (SSI) 290,485
Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI) 92,011
Ventilator-associated Pneumonia (VAP) 52,543
Catheter-related Urinary tract Infection (CR-UTI) 449,334
Clostridium difficile-associated disease (CDI) 178,000

What national and international catheter-related UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections) guidelines exist?

Guideline for Prevention of Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections, 2009

  • IDSA Guidelines

  • NHSN - National Healthcare Safety Network

  • SHEA/IDSA Practice Recommendation: Strategies to Prevent Catheter‐Associated Urinary Tract Infections in Acute Care Hospitals

  • Institute for Healthcare Improvement Prevent CAUTI How-to guide

  • APIC Guide to the Elimination of CAUTI

What other consensus group statements exist, and what do key leaders advise?

There are numerous guidelines regarding the prevention of CRUTI. The most important common thread in these guidelines can be summarized in the following CDC recommendation: "The most important risk factor for developing a catheter-associated UTI (CAUTI) is prolonged use of the urinary catheter. Therefore, catheters should only be used for appropriate indications and should be removed as soon as they are no longer needed." The SHEA/IDSA consensus guidelines echo this recommendation stating; "The duration of catheterization is the most important risk factor for development of infection. Limiting catheter use and, when a catheter is indicated, minimizing the duration the catheter remains in situ are primary strategies for CAUTI prevention.". The SHEA/IDSA consensus guidelines also contain a summary of the evidence-based recommendations from published guidelines. (See Table IV).

Table IV.

Summary of recommendations from published guidelines for Prevention of Infections Associated with Short-Term Indwelling Urethral Catheters (adapted from SHEA/IDSA guidelines: Strategies to prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections in acute care hospitals.Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2008 Oct; 29 Suppl 1:S41-50.)
Recommendation CDC NHS Epic 1 Project NHS Epic 2 Project
Ensure documentation of catheter insertion ND Y Y
Ensure that trained personnel insert catheter Y Y Y
Train patients and family ND ND Y
Practice hand hygiene Y Y Y
Evaluate necessity of catheterization Y Y Y
Evaluate alternative methods Y Y Y
Review ongoing need regularly ND Y Y
Select catheter material ND U U
Use smallest‐gauge catheter possible Y Y Y
Use aseptic technique/sterile equipment Y Y Y
Use barrier precautions for insertion Y ND ND
Perform antiseptic cleaning of meatus Y N N
Use closed drainage system Y Y Y
Obtain urine samples aseptically Y Y Y
Replace system if a break in asepsis occurs Y ND ND
Do not change catheter routinely Y Y Y
Perform routine hygiene for meatal care Y Y Y
Avoid irrigation Y Y Y
Cohort patients Y ND ND
Ensure compliance with training ND ND ND
Ensure compliance with control measures ND ND ND
Ensure compliance with catheter removal ND ND ND
Monitor rates of CAUTI and bacteremia ND ND ND


Hooten, TM, Bradley, SF, Cardenas, DD, Colgan, R, Geerlings, SE, Rice, JC. "Diagnosis, Prevention, and Treatment of Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection in Adults: 2009 International Clinical Practice Guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America". Clinical Infectious. Clin Infect Dis. 2010 Mar 1. pp. 625-63.

Lo, E, Nicolle, L, Classen, D, Arias, KM, Podgorny, K, Anderson, DJ. "Strategies to prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections in acute care hospitals". Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. vol. 29. 2008 Oct. pp. S41-50.

Niël-Weise, BS, van den Broek, PJ. "Urinary catheter policies for short-term bladder drainage in adults". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20.

Phipps, S, Liim, YN, McClinton, S, Barry, C, Rane, A, N’Dow, J. "Short term urinary catheter policies following urogenital surgery in adults". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006. pp. CD004374.

Niël-Weise, BS, van den Broek, PJ. "Antibiotic policies for short-term catheter bladder drainage in adults". Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jul 20. pp. CD005428.

Saint, S, Kaufman, SR, Rogers, MAM, Baker, PD, Ossenkop, K, Lipsky, BA. "Condom versus indwelling urinary catheters: a randomized trial". J Am Geriatr Soc. vol. 54. 2006. pp. 1055-1061.

Lau, H, Lam, B. "Management of postoperative urinary retention: a randomized trial of in-out versus overnight catheterization". ANZ J Surg. vol. 74. 2004. pp. 658-661.

Baan, AH, Vermeulen, H, van der Meulen, J, Bossuyt, P, Olszyna, D, Gouma, DJ. "The effect of suprapubic catheterization after abdominal surgery on urinary tract infection: a randomized, controlled trial.". Dig Surg. vol. 20. 2003. pp. 290-295.

Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH, Jennifer, A, Meddings, MD, MSc, David Calfee, MD, MS, Christine, P, Kowalski, MPH, Sarah, L, Krein, PhD, RN. "Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection and the Medicare. Rule Changes". Ann Intern Med. vol. 150. 2009. pp. 877-884.

Klevens, RM, Edward, JR. "Estimating health care-associated infections and deaths in U.S. hospitals, 2002". Public Health Reports. vol. 122. 2007. pp. 160-166.

Haley, RW, Hooton, TM, Culver, DH, Stanley, RC, Emori, TG, Hardison, CD. "Nosocomial infections in U.S. hospitals, 1975-1976: estimated frequency by selected characteristics of patients". Am J Med. vol. 70. 1981.

Haley, RW, Culver, DH, White, JW, Morgan, WM, Emori, TG. "The nationwide nosocomial infection rate. A new need for vital statistics.". Am J Epidemiol. vol. 121. 1985. pp. 159-67.

Klevens, RM, Edwards, JR, Richards, CL, Horan, T, Gaynes, R, Pollock, D, Cardo, D. "Estimating healthcare-associated infections in U.S. hospitals, 2002". Public Health Rep. vol. 122. 2007. pp. 160-166.

Platt, R, Polk, BF, Murdock, B, Rosner, B. "Mortality associated with nosocomial urinary-tract infection". N Engl J Med. vol. 307. 1982. pp. 637-42.

Saint, S, Chenowith, CE. "Biofilms and catheter-associated urinary tract infections". Infect Dis Clin North Am. vol. 17. 2003. pp. 411-432.

Weinstein, JW, Mazon, D, Pantelick, E, Reagan-Cirincione, P, Dembry, LM, Hierholzer, WJ. "A decade of prevalence surveys in a tertiary-care center:trends in nosocomial infection rates, device utilization, and patient acuity". Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. vol. 20. 1999. pp. 543-548.

Krieger, JN, Kaiser, DL, Wenzel, RP. "Nosocomial urinary tract infections: secular trends, treatment and economics in a university hospital". J Urol. vol. 130. 1983. pp. 102-6.

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