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You may not want to know anything about catheter-associated urinary tract infections, but if you're experiencing any of the side effects described below, you need to know everything about these painful UTIs.

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the most common type of healthcare-associated infections, accounting for more than 30% of healthcare-associated infections reported by hospitals. Virtually all of these infections are caused by instrumentation of the urinary tract, such as the insertion of catheters, a routine part of many medical procedures. Between 15 and 20% of hospital patients receive catheters during their stay.

Indwelling catheters are the primary cause of catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs). An indwelling catheter requires a tube to be inserted into the urethra. The catheter drains urine from the bladder into urinary drain bags.

What are the symptoms of a CAUTI?

Symptoms are similar to those that accompany a typical urinary tract infection. They include:

  • Cloudy urine

  • Blood in the urine

  • Urine has a strong odor

  • Urine leaks around the catheter

  • Pain, pressure, or discomfort in the lower back or abdomen

  • Chills and/or fever

  • Unexplained fatigue

  • Vomiting

What causes a CAUTI?

A urinary tract infection occurs when bacteria or fungi enter the urinary tract. There are a number of ways the urinary tract can become infected during catheterization, including:

  • The catheter becomes contaminated upon insertion

  • Drain bags are not emptied frequently enough

  • Bacteria from a bowel movement has contact with the catheter

  • Urine in the drain bag flows back into the bladder

  • The catheter or other urological supplies are not cleaned regularly

Sterile insertion and removal methods can lower the risk of a CAUTI. Doctors recommend cleaning the drain bag and catheter leg bag extension tubing every day and replacing them once a month unless they specify otherwise.

What are the potential complications of a CAUTI?

An untreated urinary tract infection can lead to serious kidney problems. Additionally, individuals with catheters may already have a condition that could compromise their immune system, making fighting off a CAUTI more difficult. An untreated CAUTI can leave a patient vulnerable to future infections as well.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above and you have a catheter, tell your healthcare provider right away. CAUTIs tend to be more resistant to treatment than typical UTIs. Because of their severe health risks, prompt diagnosis and treatment are vital to your long-term health and wellbeing.

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