Overuse of the indwelling urinary tract catheter in hospitalized medical patients

Arch Intern Med. 1995 Jul 10;155(13):1425-9.


Background: The indwelling urinary tract catheter (IUTC) is an important aspect of medical care. We studied the prevalence of the unjustified use of the IUTC in hospitalized medical patients and identified situations associated with its unjustified use.

Methods: This prospective study involved 202 patients admitted to either the medical intensive care unit (n = 135) or the medical floors (n = 67) of a tertiary care university hospital who were catheterized during the hospital admission. An independent observer assessed the indication of initial catheterization by chart review and interview with the patient and the nurse. The need for continued catheterization was assessed daily by the same observer. The proportion of unjustified IUTC placement was determined using the study guidelines. Complications as a direct consequence of catheter use were recorded.

Results: Of the 202 patients who were studied, the initial indication for the placement of an IUTC was found to be unjustified in 21% (95% confidence interval [CI], 15% to 27%). Continued catheterization was unjustified in 47% (95% CI, 42% to 57%) of 912 patient-days with IUTC studied. In the medical intensive care unit, 64% (95% CI, 58% to 70%) of the total unjustified patient-days with IUTC resulted from its excessively prolonged use for monitoring urine output. Urinary incontinence was found to be the major cause of unjustified initial ([52%] 95% CI, 32% to 74%) and continued ([56%] 95% CI, 50% to 62%) use of IUTC in the noncritical care areas. Catheter-related urinary tract infection requiring intravenous antibiotics or continuous bladder irrigation with amphotericin B was observed in 5% of the patients.

Conclusions: The IUTCs are significantly overused in hospitalized medical patients and careful attention to this aspect of medical care may reduce catheter-related complications by primary prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Catheters, Indwelling / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York
  • Prospective Studies
  • Urinary Catheterization / adverse effects
  • Urinary Catheterization / standards
  • Urinary Catheterization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / etiology