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A urinary catheter is a flexible small tube that is inserted into the bladder to allow urine to drain(1). Catheters are used for various reasons and can be used in healthcare facilities, or at home. Long-term catheter usage at home is common for people who experience urinary incontience and urianry retention(2). In a hospital settings, catheters may be used for urine testing, or therapeutic purposes to support urine drainage.
UTIs are one of the most common infections acquired in healthcare facilities. The CDC reports that 75% of UTIs in the hospital setting are associated with a urinary catheter(3).
Let’s dive into understanding what a catheter is and how they can influence UTI risk.
Catheters can be used when there are complications with the process of urinary drainage. These complications can be long term or short term, and are generally used for therapeutic or diagnostic reasons to support the process of urinary drainage(4).
Acute or chronic urinary retention
Due to the difference in length of the urethra in males and females, there are some differences in catheters. Male catheters are much longer because the male urethra is longer compared to the female urethra length. Males can also use a condom catheter that goes over the penis and has a tube that drains into a bag(6).
UTIs attributed to catheter use are one of the most common infections acquired in health care facilities(8). In fact, approximately 75% of UTIs acquired in hospitals are associated with urinary catheter use(1).
One of the factors that increase UTI risk for catheter users is the duration of time a catheter is in use(1). A catheter-associated UTI occurs when bacteria enter the urinary tract via the catheter and cause infection. The longer a catheter is inserted, the more time bacteria has to travel to the urinary tract and cause an infection. This is why it’s important that catheters only be used for appropriate indications and should be removed when they are no longer needed(9).
While these tips can help reduce the risk of infection, it’s important to remember that every body and situation is different. If you are using a catheter, we recommend talking to your doctor or a healthcare professional to ensure that you are taking the proper precautions to prevent an infection.