A 68-year-old male with a history of Alzheimer’s dementia and incontinence presents with failure to thrive. A Foley catheter is placed due to the patient’s incontinence and fall risk. Three days after admission while awaiting placement in a skilled nursing facility (SNF), he develops a urinary tract infection (UTI) complicated by delirium delaying his transfer to the SNF. What could have been done to prevent this complication?
Explore this issue:July 2008
It has been 50 years since Beeson, et al., recognized the potential harms stemming from urethral catheterization and penned an editorial to the American Journal of Medicine titled “The case against the catheter.”1
Since then, there has been considerable exploration of ways to limit urethral catheterization and ultimately decrease catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). Unfortunately, little progress has been made; indwelling urinary catheters remain ubiquitous in hospitals and CAUTIs remain the most common hospital-acquired infection in the United States.2 Given the emphasis on the quality and costs of healthcare, it is an opportune time to revisit catheter management and use as a way to combat the clinical and economic consequences of CAUTIs.
Clinicians may be lulled into thinking the clinical impact of CAUTI is less than that of other nosocomial infections. However, beyond the obvious patient harm from UTIs, associated bacteremia, and even death, the public health implications of CAUTI cannot be denied. Urinary tract infections constitute 40% of all nosocomial infections; accounting for an estimated 1 million cases annually.3 Further, 80% of all UTIs are associated with indwelling catheter use.