A catheter-associated UTI (urinary tract infection), sometimes called CAUTI, is a common and potentially serious complication of using urinary catheters. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to help prevent and treat these infections. This blog post will provide an overview of CAUTIs, tips for preventing them, and how to treat them if they occur.
What is a catheter-associated UTI?
A catheter-associated UTI is a urinary tract infection that occurs in someone using a urinary catheter. A urinary catheter is a flexible tube that is inserted into the bladder through the urethra to drain urine when a person is unable to do so on their own. CAUTIs are a common complication of catheter use, particularly among those who require long-term catheterization.
CAUTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the catheter and begin to grow and multiply. According to the CDC, the risk of developing a UTI increases the longer a catheter is in place, such as with an indwelling Foley catheter. Symptoms of a UTI can include fever, chills, abdominal pain, burning with urination, and cloudy or foul-smelling urine. CAUTIs can lead to sepsis or other serious complications in severe cases.
Catheter-associated UTI treatment requires a diagnosis by your healthcare provider, that will prescribe the appropriate next steps. If you experience symptoms of a CAUTI, seeking medical attention promptly to prevent complications is essential.
Prevention Tips for a Catheter-Associated UTI
To reduce the risk of acquiring a catheter-associated UTI, using sterile techniques when inserting and removing a catheter and practicing some healthy habits is essential.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after touching your catheter or the surrounding area.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, can help flush bacteria out of your system and reduce the risk of infection.
- Empty your bladder regularly: Try to empty your bladder regularly to prevent urine from accumulating and increasing the risk of infection. Your healthcare provider may recommend a specific schedule for catheter drainage.
- Avoid constipation: Constipation can increase the risk of UTIs, so eat a healthy diet with plenty of fiber and drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation.
- Follow proper catheter care guidelines: Follow your healthcare provider’s and catheter manufacturer’s instructions for catheter care, including how to clean and prep for catheter insertion properly and how to change the catheter if necessary.
- Maintain a sterile system: Your healthcare provider will likely recommend a sterile system for catheter insertion, which means using sterile gloves, a sterile catheter, and other catheter supplies like lubrication to minimize the risk of infection.
- Drink cranberry juice: Cranberry juice has been used for decades to prevent UTIs. According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, cranberry juice contains a substance that may prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, which may help prevent UTIs. UTI-Stat is a natural cranberry beverage that may be effective in reducing symptomatic UTIs, including urgency and frequency of urination.
Following these prevention tips can help reduce your risk of developing a UTI. However, if you experience symptoms of a UTI, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly to prevent complications.
Treating a Catheter-Associated UTI
Treatment of CAUTIs should begin with contacting your doctor immediately. If you are using a Foley catheter, remove it promptly. Cleaning and disinfecting the area carefully can help prevent further infection by eliminating the source of bacteria. Catheter-associated UTI treatment tips include drinking plenty of fluids and managing UTI-related pain and discomfort with medications or antibiotics.
Your doctor may test for underlying medical conditions that may have led to the infection. This can help providers better treat the infection by providing targeted treatment, which can help reduce the risk of UTI recurrence in patients.
Leaving a Catheter-Associated UTI Untreated
CAUTIs left untreated could lead to a kidney infection requiring immediate medical attention. More serious symptoms could develop, such as:
- Chills and shivering
- A fever of 100.4F or above
- Pain in the abdomen, sides, and back
- Having the urge to urinate more frequently
- Nausea or vomiting
- Blood in the urine
It is critical to seek immediate medical attention to treat the infection properly.
To summarize, a catheter-associated UTI is a common yet potentially serious complication for patients requiring a urinary catheter. Multiple steps can be taken to help prevent and treat these infections. These steps include proper hand hygiene, daily assessment of the catheter, clean intermittent catheterization, and utilizing a sterile antimicrobial lubricant or a hydrophilic catheter. If an infection occurs, it is critical to seek medical attention to treat it before it becomes something worse.