Since urine culture and urinalysis are both of uncertain reliability in diagnosing symptomatic urinary tract infections in patients with chronic urinary catheters, we performed sequential quantitative cultures and urinalyses on 177 urine specimens from 14 patients with long-term urinary catheters during a 12-month period. We found high concentrations of greater than or equal to 2 species of aerobic bacteria or fungi in most specimens examined. Pyuria was common even during asymptomatic periods; hematuria was less common. During symptomatic urinary tract infections, neither urinalyses nor quantitative urine cultures exhibited changes specific for such infections. Thus neither urinalysis nor urine culture appears to be a reliable test for symptomatic urinary tract infections in patients with chronic urinary catheters.