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Catheters Pose More Risks Than Just CAUTIs

Catheter-associated urinary tract infections  [1]are a well-known issue related to urinary catheters. However, a new study [2] in JAMA Internal Medicine finds the devices can cause more issues that previously thought. In fact, UTIs are five times less common than non-infectious problems caused by indwelling urinary catheters.

In-depth interviews and chart reviews from more than 2,000 patients found more than half of catheterized hospital patients experienced a complication of some kind.

The issues ranged from pain, bloody urine and activity restrictions while the catheter was in, to problems with urination and sexual function after it was removed.

“Our findings underscore the importance of avoiding an indwelling urinary catheter unless it is absolutely necessary, and removing it as soon as possible,” says the study’s lead author Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH [3], chief of medicine at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, George Dock professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and director of the U-M/VA Patient Safety Enhancement Program. [4]

A wide array of issues

For the study, Saint and his colleagues from U-M, VAAAHS, and two Texas hospitals analyzed data from 2,076 patients who had recently had a catheter placed for short-term use. Most catheters were placed because the patients were having surgery. Researchers followed-up with patients two weeks after catheter placement and again one month after their catheter placement to ask about their catheter-related experience.

Nearly three quarters of the patients were male, and the catheter was removed within three days of the insertion for 76% of patients. Among the study’s findings:

“While there has been appropriate attention paid to the infectious harms of indwelling urethral catheters over the past several decades, recently we have better appreciated the extent of non-infectious harms that are caused by these devices,” says Saint.

Story first appeared in PSQH. [5]