What Causes a Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection?

When you enter a hospital for medical treatment, the last thing you expect is to get worse. Unfortunately this happens all too often when hospital patients suffer a preventable catheter-associated urinary tract infection.

This type of infection is one of the most common infections that patients develop during a hospital stay. It represents 35 percent of all hospital-acquired infections. It's also one of the most preventable.

As many as one in five hospital patients have urinary catheters as part of their medical treatment. A urinary catheter is a flexible tube placed in the bladder to drain urine. It's connected to a bag outside the body that collects urine. Patients who are having a difficult time controlling bladder function or whose kidneys are being monitored may need a catheter.

Often times, however, the use of a catheter is unwarranted or goes on too long. And this unnecessary treatment can put hospital patients needlessly at risk for severe health consequences. A catheter-associated urinary tract infection can turn fatal.

This infection occurs when germs enter a patient's urinary tract. The use of a catheter opens the patient to such an infection, and the longer the catheter stays in, the greater the odds of infection. Some estimates say the risk of infection grows by 5 percent each day the catheter remains.

Symptoms of Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection

They symptoms of a catheter-associated urinary tract infection may include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain in the lower back or stomach

There are many ways such an infection occurs, most of which are preventable medical errors:

  • The catheter becomes comprised during insertion due to incorrect technique
  • The catheter is not cleaned on a regular basis
  • The catheter stays in longer than medically necessary
  • The drainage bag is not emptied as often as it should be
  • Poor personal hygiene by those who insert or monitor the catheter

Potential Complications from Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. But this specific type of hospital-acquired infection may be more difficult to treat. A catheter-related urinary tract infection can lead to a serious kidney infection. Those whose immune systems are already stressed may be more susceptible to other types of infections as well.

A catheter-associated urinary tract infection can be life threatening if allowed to enter the blood stream and spread throughout the patient's body.

Hospital patients who have a catheter should be mindful of these complications. They may want to ask their doctor if a catheter is necessary before it is inserted, check every day to see if it is still needed, and report any possible infection symptoms immediately.

But it's not the responsibility of patients to monitor their healthcare. They should receive care from their physicians that does not place them in avoidable danger. When healthcare practitioners fail to provide reasonable care, when they make preventable mistakes that harm their patients, they should be held accountable.

If you or a loved one suffered from serious medical care mistakes while in a hospital, you may want to speak with a medical malpractice attorney about the experience.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

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