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What are urinary tract infections associated with urinary catheters and how can they be prevented?

A urinary catheter is a tube placed in the bladder to drain urine. A catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) can occur when bacteria or other germs travel along a urinary catheter, resulting in an infection in the bladder or the kidney. Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include fever, tenderness over the lower abdomen, burning during urination, and urinary frequency.


CAUTIs are the most frequently occurring healthcare-associated infection, but their incidence can be reduced with several key health care provider practices:

  1. Avoid unnecessary catheters. They should be used only when absolutely necessary, such as when there is a urinary obstruction, during some surgeries or when someone is critically ill.
  2. When a urinary catheter is needed, it should be inserted with sterile technique. Health care providers should use appropriate hand hygiene(which includes hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer), sterile equipment and antiseptic solutions.
  3. Urinary catheters should be maintained properly once inserted to keep them sterile and unobstructed.
  4. Once it is no longer needed, a urinary catheter should be removed promptly. The longer a catheter is in place, the greater the risk of infection over time.

What Can You Do as a Patient?

  1. Clean your hands before and after caring for your catheter.
  2. Always keep the urine bag that is attached to the catheter below the level of your bladder.
  3. Don't tug or pull on the catheter tubing.
  4. Don't twist or kink the catheter tubing.
  5. Ask your health care provider regularly if you still need the catheter.

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For general prevention and safety information about healthcare-associated infection visit: