Catheter-Linked Urinary Tract Infections
|A small balloon keeps the catheter in place inside the bladder.
A catheter-linked urinary tract
infection (CAUTI) is an infection of the urinary tract. CAUTI is caused by bacteria that
enter the urinary tract when a urinary catheter is used. This is a tube that’s placed into
the bladder to drain urine.
The urinary tract
This tract includes the kidneys,
ureters, bladder, and urethra. The kidneys filter blood and make urine. The ureters
carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder stores urine. The urethra
carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body.
What is a urinary catheter?
A urinary catheter is a thin, flexible tube. It is placed in the bladder to drain urine. Urine flows through the tube into a collecting bag outside of the body. There are different types of urinary catheters. The most common type is an indwelling catheter. This is also known as a urethral catheter. This is because it’s placed into the bladder through the urethra. This catheter is also called a Foley catheter.
Why is a urinary catheter needed?
A urinary catheter is needed for any of the following:
You are not able to move
around for a long period of time after surgery or injury.
You have a blockage in your
Your healthcare provider
needs to measure the amount of urine you pass.
The function of your kidneys
and bladder is being tested.
In most cases, the urinary catheter
is short term (temporary). You'll need it only until the problem that needs it is
How does a CAUTI develop?
Bacteria can enter the urinary tract as the catheter is put into the urethra. Bacteria can also get into the urinary tract while the catheter is in place. The common bacteria that cause a CAUTI are ones that live in the intestine. These bacteria don’t normally cause problems in the intestine. But when they get into the urinary tract, a CAUTI can result.
Why is a CAUTI of concern?
Left untreated, a CAUTI can lead to
health problems. These problems may include bladder infection, prostate infection, and
kidney infection. A CAUTI can keep you in the hospital longer. If the infection is not
treated in time, you may have serious health complications.
What are the symptoms of a CAUTI?
A burning feeling, pressure,
or pain in your lower belly (abdomen)
Fever or chills
Urine in the collecting bag
is cloudy or bloody (pink or red)
Burning feeling in the
urethra or genital area
Aching in your back (kidney
Nausea and vomiting
You are confused, or not
alert, or have a change in behavior (mainly affects older patients)
Sometimes you may not have any
symptoms but may still have CAUTI.
Tell a healthcare provider right
away if you or a loved one has any of these symptoms.
How is CAUTI diagnosed?
Your healthcare provider will order
tests if you have symptoms of a CAUTI. These include a urine test and blood tests.
How is CAUTI treated?
Treatment may involve any of the following:
healthcare provider will likely prescribe antibiotics if you have symptoms. Be
aware that if you don’t have symptoms, you may not be given antibiotics. This is
to prevent an increase in bacteria that can’t be killed by certain
Removing the catheter.
The catheter will be removed when your healthcare provider decides it’s no
longer needed. This usually helps stop the infection.
Changing the catheter.
If you still need a catheter, the old one will be removed. A new one will be put
in. This may help stop the infection.
How do hospital and long-term facility staff prevent CAUTI?
To keep patients from getting a CAUTI, the staff follow certain procedures:
Prescribe a catheter only when it’s needed. It is removed as soon as it’s no longer needed.
Use clean (sterile) method
when placing the catheter into the urinary tract. This means before putting the
catheter in, the caregiver washes his or her hands with soap and water. He or she
then puts on sterile gloves. A sterile catheter kit that has cleansers is used to
cleanse the your genital area.
Before doing catheter care,
caregivers also wash their hands or use an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
Hang the bag lower than your bladder. This prevents urine from flowing back into your bladder.
Check that the bag is emptied
What you can do as a patient to prevent CAUTI
You can help prevent yourself from getting a CAUTI by doing the following:
Every day ask your healthcare provider how long you need to have the catheter. The longer you have a catheter, the higher your chance of getting a CAUTI.
Ask a caregiver to clean his
or her hands and put on gloves before touching your catheter.
If you’ve been taught how to
care for your catheter, wash your hands before and after each session.
Check that your bag is lower
than your bladder. If it’s not, tell your caregiver.
Don’t disconnect the catheter and drain tube. Doing so allows germs to get into the catheter.
Cleaning the genital and
perineal areas is very important to help decrease bacteria in areas around the
catheter. Ask your doctor what you should use and how often to clean these
If you are discharged with an indwelling catheter
Before you leave the
hospital, understand the instructions on how to care for your catheter at
Ask your healthcare provider how long you need the catheter. Also ask if you need to make a follow-up appointment to have the catheter removed.
Always use a clean (sterile)
method when caring for your catheter. Wash your hands before and after doing any
Call your healthcare provider right away if you develop symptoms of a CAUTI (see above).