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A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that occurs within a part of the urinary system such as the kidneys, bladder, ureters, or urethra. Individuals using catheters have an increased chance of developing UTIs because of the increased possibility of bacteria entering the urethra during insertion.
The threat of a UTI is most prominent in patients using indwelling catheters due to the prolonged period of time that these specific catheters are inside the bladder. However, if proper precautions are not used when inserting intermittent catheters or when applying external catheters, UTIs can also occur.
What Causes Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infection?
In a nutshell, a UTI is a bacterial infection. Usually, your urethra is a pretty sterile environment, but sometimes bacteria can wage an invasion if they get the opportunity. And this opportunity comes through the bacteria that are transferred from your hands onto the catheter, which is then inserted into your urethra where the bacteria can start to multiply and cause all of the symptoms you associate with a UTI.
It is also important to recognize symptoms of a UTI so treatment can begin immediately. Symptoms of a UTI are:
- Burning with urination
- Frequent urgency to urinate
- Cloudy, foul-smelling, or bloody urine
- Fever or chills
- Lower abdominal pain or pelvic pressure
How do I prevent a CAUTI?
Four tips to avoid a catheter-associated urinary tract infection
1. Keep Clean
Although your hands may look clean, they’re usually the means through which bacteria is being transferred to your catheter and into your urethra. Always wash your hands with soap and water before you use your catheter. It’s also a good idea to shower at minimum once daily to ensure your skin stays clean throughout the day.
It can be a good idea to actually open the catheter prior to handwashing, as the outer package of the catheter is not sterile if it has been stored in a pocket, bag, or purse. Gloves, if available, can be a great second line of defense for patients catheterizing in public restrooms, and are often included in catheter insertion kits. Additionally, Medicaid plans and some private insurances will cover gloves independently if signed for by a doctor as part of a catheterization regimen.
2. Catheter Insertion Kits
The right catheter supplies can ensure easy, sterile catheterization. Catheters should only be opened once before they are ready to be inserted and should never be placed on any surface which is not sterile. A catheter insertion kit can further reduce the risk of a UTI. Most kits include gloves, sterilizing wipes, and lubricant.
Include a drape, paper towel, or sanitary surface to a catheter insertion kit means you will always have a controlled surface to rest your catheter. many catheters have an adhesive dot on the side of the catheter packaging, enabling patients to stick the outer packaging of the catheter to any surface while preserving the sanitation of the catheter itself. If a patient’s catheter includes a grip or guide strip, this should be utilized, so as not to touch the catheter tube itself which can lead to contamination.
3. Stay Regular
If you want to avoid putting excessive pressure on your bladder then you’ll also want to ensure you’re not constipated. Constipation (aka. a full bowel) can interfere with your bladder’s ability to empty fully by applying pressure from the rectum. If you do feel like you could benefit from being more regular then increase your intake of fiber, fluids, and probiotic-rich foods like yogurt and sauerkraut.
4. Reduce the Pressure
It’s important not to put too much pressure on your bladder since an overdistended bladder can contribute to the development of a UTI. That being said, avoiding overfilling your bladder can be a problem if you’re drinking gallons of water every day without emptying your bladder on a regular basis.
Remember that although you want to stay well-hydrated, you also want to ensure you’re going to the washroom regularly. If you don’t experience spontaneous voiding, which is the ability to urinate on your own, then you’ll need to empty your bladder on a regular basis to ensure it doesn’t become too full.
If patients prepare properly and take a heightened degree of caution, catheterizing does not need to be a source of anxiety. UTI’s can be a serious health concern, particularly with patients that may already be dealing with other serious and concurrent medical issues which may compromise their immune system and resilience. Advances in medical technology can enable you to utilize a catheterization program without sacrificing any quality of life.