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How common are noninfectious complications of Foley catheters?


CLINICAL QUESTION: How common are noninfectious complications of Foley catheters?

BACKGROUND: Approximately 20% of hospitalized patients have a Foley catheter inserted at some time during their admission. Infectious complications associated with the use of Foley catheters are widely recognized; however, much less is known about noninfectious complications.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective cohort study.

SETTING: Four U.S. hospitals in two states.SYNOPSIS: The study included 2,076 hospitalized patients with a Foley catheter. They were followed for 30 days after its insertion, even if catheter removal occurred during this time period. Data about infectious and noninfectious complications were collected through patient interviews.

Dr. Karen Clarke, assistant professor of medicine in the division of hospital medicine, Emory University, Atlanta.

Dr. Karen Clarke

At least one complication was noted in 1,184 of 2,076 patients (57%) during the 30-day period following Foley catheter insertion. While infectious complications occurred in 219 of 2,076 patients (10.5%), noninfectious complications (such as pain, urinary urgency, hematuria) were reported by 1,150 patients (55.4%; P less than .001). For those with catheters still in place, the most common complication was pain or discomfort (54.5%). Postremoval leaking urine (20.3%) and/or urgency and bladder spasms (24.0%) were the most common complications.

The study only included patients who had a Foley catheter placed during a hospitalization; the results may not apply to patients who receive catheters in other settings.

BOTTOM LINE: Noninfectious complications affect over half of patients with a Foley catheters. These types of complications should be targeted in future harm prevention efforts and should be considered when deciding to place a Foley catheter.

CITATION: Saint S et al. A multicenter study of patient-reported infectious and noninfectious complications associated with indwelling urethral catheters. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;178(8):1078-85.

Dr. Clarke is an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hospital medicine at Emory University, Atlanta.

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