The catheter catch-22

Urinary catheters are used in as many as one in five hospitalized patients. While these devices can provide beneficial and life-saving functions, every day a patient has a catheter increases the risk of both infectious and non-infectious complications. Dr. Saint’s team has found that many patients don’t need catheters in the first place, and that many of those who do could have them removed earlier.

Urinary tract infections represent up to one-third of all healthcare-associated infections, with the vast majority stemming from urinary catheters. More than 900,000 patients will develop CAUTI in a U.S. hospital each year. Yet if recommended infection-prevention practices are implemented, more than two-thirds of catheter-associated UTIs are considered avoidable. This has major implications for healthcare costs as well, since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not reimburse hospitals for the extra expense of caring for patients who develop hospital-acquired CAUTI.

Although the risks associated with urinary catheters are well recognized among hospital staff, reducing unnecessary urinary catheter use can be challenging and resource intensive. Strategies to improve safety culture may need to vary not only from hospital to hospital, but potentially from unit to unit.