Indwelling urinary catheters are used frequently in older populations. For either short- or long-term catheters, the infection rate is about 5% per day. Escherichia coli remains the most common infecting organism, but a wide variety of other organisms may be isolated, including yeast species. Bacteria tend to show increased resistance because of the repeated antimicrobial courses. Urinary tract infection (UTI) usually follows formation of biofilm on both the internal and external catheter surface. The biofilm protects organisms from both antimicrobials and the host immune response. Morbidity from UTI with short-term catheter use is limited if appropriate catheter care is practised. In patients with long-term catheters, fever from a urinary source is common with a frequency varying from 1 per 100 to 1 per 1000 catheter days. Long-term care facility residents with chronic indwelling catheters have a much greater risk for bacteraemia and other urinary complications than residents without catheters. Asymptomatic catheter-acquired UTI should not be treated with antimicrobials. Antimicrobial treatment does not decrease symptomatic episodes but will lead to emergence of more resistant organisms. For treatment of symptomatic infection, many antimicrobials are effective. Wherever possible, antimicrobial selection should be delayed until culture results are available. Whether to administer initial treatment by an oral or parenteral route is determined by clinical presentation. If empirical therapy is required, antimicrobial selection is based on variables such as route of administration, anticipated infecting organism and susceptibility, and patient tolerance. Renal function, concomitant medications, local formulary and cost may also be considered in selection of the antimicrobial agent. The duration of therapy is usually 10-14 days, but patients who respond promptly and in whom the catheter must remain in situ may be treated with a shorter 7-day course to reduce antimicrobial pressure. Relevant clinical trials are necessary to define optimal antimicrobial regimens for the management of catheter-acquired UTI. Prevention of catheter-acquired UTI and its complications is a major goal. With short-term catheters, avoiding their use or limiting the duration of use to as short a time as possible are the most effective prevention strategies. Maintaining a closed drainage system and adhering to appropriate catheter care techniques will also limit infection and complications. As the duration of catheterisation is the principal determinant of infection with long-term indwelling catheters, it is not clear that any interventions can decrease the prevalence of bacteriuria in this setting. Catheter flushing or daily perineal care do not prevent infection and may, in fact, increase the risk of infection. Complications of infection may be prevented by giving antibacterials for bacteriuria immediately prior to any invasive urological procedure, and by avoiding catheter blockage, twisting or trauma. The major focus of future advances in prevention of catheter-acquired UTI is the development of biomaterials resistant to biofilm formation. There is substantial current research addressing this issue, but current catheter materials all remain susceptible to biofilm formation.