The efficacy of silver alloy-coated urinary catheters in preventing urinary tract infection: a meta-analysis

Am J Med. 1998 Sep;105(3):236-41. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(98)00240-x.


Purpose: Indwelling urinary catheters are implicated in most cases of nosocomial urinary tract infection. Silver-coating of catheters may reduce the risk of these infections; however, trials have provided mixed results. We performed a meta-analysis to estimate the effectiveness of silver-coated urinary catheters.

Subjects and methods: Published or unpublished articles were sought using MEDLINE, reference review, and correspondence with original authors, catheter manufacturers, and experts. Trials using silver-coated urinary catheters in the treatment group and uncoated urinary catheters in the control group were included. Bacteriuria, as evaluated by urine culture, was the outcome variable used to indicate urinary tract infection. Summary odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated using Mantel-Haenszel methods with a fixed-effects model.

Results: Of 117 reports retrieved, eight trials with a total of 2,355 patients satisfied inclusion criteria. The summary OR for urinary tract infection was 0.59 (95% CI, 0.42 to 0.84) indicating a significant benefit in the patients receiving silver-coated catheters. A test of heterogeneity, however, indicated that the odds ratios varied significantly among studies. Silver alloy catheters (OR = 0.24; 95% CI, 0.11 to 0.52) were significantly more protective against bacteriuria than silver oxide catheters (OR = 0.79; 95% CI, 0.56 to 1.10).

Conclusions: This meta-analysis clarifies discrepant results among trials of silver-coated urinary catheters by revealing that silver alloy catheters are significantly more effective in preventing urinary tract infections than are silver oxide catheters. Though silver alloy urinary catheters cost about $6 more than standard urinary catheters, they may be worth the extra cost since catheter-related infection is a common cause of nosocomial infection and bacteremia.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Alloys
  • Humans
  • Odds Ratio
  • Silver*
  • Urinary Catheterization / instrumentation*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / etiology
  • Urinary Tract Infections / prevention & control*


  • Alloys
  • Silver