How to Prevent Catheter-Associated UTIs

Urinary catheters are devices that help people urinate when they are unable to do so on their own — often due to various health issues. However, there are several risks associated with this, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections – sometimes abbreviated “CAUTIs” – are at the top of the list.  

Catheter-associated UTIs happen when bacteria or other pathogens infect the urinary tract through a catheter. These infections are unfortunately a common occurrence, making up more than 75% of urinary tract infections in all hospitalized patients. 

The risk of CAUTIs increases daily, with risk for infection rates ranging from 3% to 10% for each day a catheter is in place. In other words, the longer a catheter is in use, the higher the likelihood of developing a CAUTI.

Despite the prevalence of catheter-associated UTIs, there are several measures we can take to prevent these complications. In the following sections, we’ll run through some steps and precautions to significantly reduce the risk of CAUTIs. 

Main Types of Urinary Catheters 

There are several different types of catheters depending on what the situation calls for. It’s important to understand the differences between them and which one is appropriate the current circumstances – as determined by a medical professional: 

  • Foley catheters — also called indwelling catheters, which remain inside the bladder for an extended period. These are typically left in place for days or weeks. It is connected to a drainage bag that collects urine. 
  • Intermittent catheters are used as needed to empty the bladder, and then it is removed once finished. 
  • Male external catheters are designed for convenience, resembling a condom that fits over the penis. They feature a condom-like tip connected to a tube, which then leads to a bag for urine collection. These catheters are disposable.

Using any type of catheter carries the risk of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). These infections are more common in care facilities and among individuals who require long-term catheter use, as bacteria can enter the urinary tract through the catheter.

Best Practices to Prevent Catheter-Associated UTIs

Preventing catheter-associated UTIs hinges on proper catheter management. Through careful catheter selection, diligent maintenance, and sterile insertion techniques, healthcare providers and patients alike can decrease infection rates.

Choosing the Right Catheter Size

The cornerstone of minimizing CAUTI risk lies in selecting the proper catheter. Tailoring the choice to each patient’s specific needs is vital. 

Selecting the correct catheter size is crucial for a comfortable and efficient catheterization process, and it plays a significant role in reducing the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). 

Using a catheter that’s too large can cause friction, discomfort, or pain during insertion, and might not fit at all. On the other hand, a catheter that’s too narrow can slow down urine drainage and lead to leakage around the catheter, creating messes and disrupting flow control. 

To assist in this process, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on Understanding Catheter Sizes. This guide is designed to help you navigate the selection process and determine the best catheter size for your needs.

Maintaining the Catheter Properly

Effective maintenance is crucial once the catheter is in place. The CDC advocates for careful cleaning of the insertion site and strict hygiene practices. 

Using closed drainage systems helps prevent bacterial entry, and keeping the drainage bag lower than the bladder is essential to avoid urine backflow.

Maintenance may occasionally involve the use of a catheter irrigation kit, a step that should only be undertaken following your doctor’s recommendations or specific instructions. To facilitate this, our shop offers irrigation kits that contain all the necessary supplies for performing this routine safely at home.

Hygienic Insertion Techniques

When inserting a catheter, ensure safe and sterile conditions by following these steps:

  • Practice hand hygiene before and after handling the catheter or touching the site.
  • Only individuals trained in catheter insertion and maintenance (hospital staff, trained family members, or the patients themselves) should perform this task.
  • Wear gloves and a gown as needed.
  • Use aseptic wipes and prepping equipment for catheter insertion.
  • Secure the catheter properly after insertion to prevent movement and reduce the risk of irritation

How to Control Catheter-Associated UTIs

In battling catheter-associated urinary tract infections, certain strategies have proven effective. These include strict hand hygiene, aseptic techniques for catheter insertion and maintenance, and potential antibiotic use (source).

Hand Hygiene: The First Line of Defense

The importance of hand hygiene when it comes to catheter insertion and maintenance cannot be overstated. Regular, thorough hand washing is fundamental. 

Healthcare professionals and/or patients must wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after handling the catheter, the site of insertion, or any part of the urine collection system. 

This simple step is vital in cutting down the risk of infection.

Aseptic Techniques during Insertion

Employing aseptic methods during catheter placement is crucial. This involves:

  • Cleaning the urinary opening with antiseptic.
  • Ensuring a sterile field to prevent contact with contaminants.
  • Maintaining sterile conditions for ongoing care and any handling of the catheter or its drainage system.

Utilizing Prescription Antibiotics If Needed

Doctors may prescribe antibiotics to treat catheter-associated UTIs or to lower the risk in patients with additional risk factors. However, this approach is strictly under medical supervision, and you should follow the guidelines provided by healthcare professionals.

The goal here is to use antibiotics effectively, reducing infection risks while avoiding antibiotic resistance. This means:

  • Limiting catheter use to when absolutely necessary.
  • Promptly removing catheters when they’re no longer needed.
  • Considering targeted antibiotic prophylaxis according to guidelines, to prevent infection without contributing to antibiotic overuse.

The prevention techniques highlighted above show that preventing catheter-associated UTIs demands a thorough and attentive approach from all parties involved. Ultimately, maintaining proper hygiene is crucial, alongside minimizing any additional risk factors that could increase susceptibility to infection.

Shop Catheter Supplies & Accessories at Medical Monks

For individuals requiring catheterization, selecting the appropriate catheter and ensuring its proper use are critical steps in minimizing the risk of infections. This is where Medical Monks steps in to offer invaluable support. 

With an extensive selection of catheters, Medical Monks ensures you can find the right fit for your specific needs, whether you require Foley catheters, intermittent catheters, or male external catheters.

Medical Monks doesn’t stop at just providing catheters. We also offer a range of antiseptic wipes and kits to maintain sterility around the catheter site, alongside other essential accessories designed to keep the area free from bacteria and ensure a good fit. 

By leveraging these resources, patients and healthcare providers alike can reduce the risks associated with catheter use.

The MEDICAL MONKS STAFF brings to the table decades of combined knowledge and experience in the medical products industry.

Edited for content by ADAM PAGE.

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