Urinary tract infections

Urinary tract infections during catheterization

Urinary tract infections are the most common infections for catheterized patients. This medical condition is caused by various strain of bacteria who penetrate the skin or mucous tissue through lesions or trauma spots. There are several symptoms common for this conditions, so pay attention to any of these when they occur for more than three days:

  • fever – generally mild, but can become quite severe in serious cases
  • chills
  • pain and burning sensation near the urethra – this is the first symptom most patients complain about
  • uncontrolled urine leakage – urine leaks are common, especially for female patients
  • muscle spasms – they occur around the bladder, in the lower abdomen, buttocks, upper legs and lower torso
  • feeling swollen up around the bladder – also known as “feeling like you need catheterization” – you feel like wanting to pee, but the pain makes it impossible
  • nausea – slight nausea may occur in some patients
  • headaches
  • low back pain and joint pain
  • feeling tired for extended periods of time

Pay attention to your urine, as urinary tract infections can make your urine look and smell peculiar:

  • sediments – your urine may feel sandy (gritty particles) or it can have a mucus buildup; other patients have reported that their urine looks cloudy
  • bloody urine – pink or red urine occurs in more severe cases
  • foul smelling urine – your urine often smells bad in case of urinary tract infections

Note: These symptoms do not necessarily confirm that you have urinary tract infection. Only a certified physician can confirm a diagnosis. Also, pay attention that urinary tract infections are sometimes confused with bacteriuria, a similar condition to UTI, but with milder symptoms. 

Urinary tract infection causes

  • intermittent catheterization

During catheterization, a catheter is inserted into the bladder through the urethra. This procedure basically forces a foreign object into your bladder, picking up dangerous bacteria from your skin. These bacteria are introduced in the bladder, where it can grow and multiply hastily. The urine stays in the bladder for at least 4 to 6 hours, thus leaving plenty of time for uncontrolled growth. In time, this bacterial buildup extends to the whole bladder, and the infection becomes generalized. To avoid this, you should try to drink at least 300 to 500 cc/ml of liquids (1 to 1.5 cups) during each catheterization and try to empty your bladder every four to five hours. Also, wash your hands after going to the bathroom and after each catheterization procedure.

  • indwelling catheters (Foley catheters)

If you use indwelling catheters, bacteria is always present in your urinary tract, up to your bladder. The catheter is essentially a passage way to your bladder and bacteria will roam everywhere. Fortunately, not all bacteria will cause an urinary tract infection, but your doctor should constantly keep you under surveillance. The greatest risk of urinary infections is when your Foley catheter becomes blocked by debris or residue, or if your general resistance to infection is poor.

Treatment of UTIs for catheterized patients

The best way to fight and counteract urinary tract infections is with antibiotics. Always take the antibiotics that are prescribed by your primary care physician and never take medication without talking to your doctor. Also, ask your pharmacist when to take them during the day, and how often. Depending on the antibiotic prescribed, you should either take them before or after meals, or during the night. Always take all the medications you are prescribed, including vitamins and dietary supplements, if applicable.

Some antibiotics, particularly the more potent ones, will attack both “good” and “bad” bacteria. The good bacteria in your body, responsible with digestion, for instance, may die because of the antibiotic. This will cause several symptoms, including skin rashes and diarrhea. Try to revive this good bacterium by taking dietary supplements, yogurt, acidophilus milk or various natural products that boost bacterial growth in your digestive tract (probiotic cultures).

After the antibiotic treatment, and your symptoms have passed, you should use new catheters and pay attention to the safety procedures. Usually, after an UTI episode, patients will recover quickly and will be more resistant to future episodes.

How to reduce urinary tract infections during catheterization?

Urinary tract infections (abbreviated as UTIs) are some of the most common infections for patients undergoing catheterization. This condition affects both male and female patients and may develop into other, more serious conditions, if left untreated. It affects millions of patients every year and it’s the main cause of concern for patients using long term, indwelling catheters. In fact, catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) are, by far, the most common nosocomial infections in hospital environments, in both acute care units and extended care facilities.

Urinary tract infections affect the bladder, the urethra, the urethral tubes (ureters), the tissue surrounding these organs and may extend, in severe cases, to the kidneys. Luckily, urinary tract infections can be avoided in most cases by following a simple list of procedures. It’s terribly important for all patients, regardless their age or sex, to follow these basic tips in order to avoid contacting urinary tract infections during their catheterization. Let’s take a look:

  • Do not reuse catheters

Modern catheters are designed as single use devices, so you shouldn’t use them multiple times under any circumstance. In fact, they are specifically made to be used only one time and washing them cannot guarantee their cleanliness. There are a lot of independent studies which have shown that reused catheters are infested with debris, bacteria and pryons, which can cause adverse effects and infections. Studies also shown that using catheters as they are intended, for a single use, has decreased the risk of urinary tract infections. Luckily, most medical insurance companies cover single use catheters as part of their basic plans, so there is virtually no need to consider reusing old catheters.

  • Go for hydrophilic catheters 

Hydrophilic catheters are coated in a special lubricant solution, making them ideal for patients with a blocked or narrow urethra. They are more comfortable than normal catheters and help reduce the risk of infections caused by trauma to the urethra. Hydrophilic catheters are made of smooth PVC, latex, or silicone, making them easy to insert and handle during the catheterization process. The lubricant coating is activated by water, so there is no need for additional lubrication during long term catheter use. What’s more, because the lubricant is sterile, there is no need to touch or clean the catheter before insertion.

  • Use an introducer tip for your catheter

In most cases, catheters are quite simple to insert, but in special cases, the insertion is difficult because the urethra in narrow or blocked. In this case, you should use a special introducer tip which helps make the insertion procedure much easier and less painful for the patient. This system works generally with a closed system sleeve, and the catheters used come in special packs,  together with the required accessories. Because the risk of trauma is reduced and there are no lesions, the risk of infections is virtually non-existent. Always ask a professional to help you when inserting a catheter with an insertion tip, as the procedure requires some experience.

  • Learn the correct way to insert the catheters 

Most infections occur because the person doing the catheterization simply doesn’t know the basics of the insertion procedure. This causes small lesions which are ideal gateways for bacterial buildups and infections. Catheter insertion is generally a specialized procedure and should be preferably done by healthcare experts. This is especially true if patients are unable to properly insert them because of limited mobility. Similarly, in hospital settings, healthcare professionals will insert or remove catheters. If this is not possible, follow a guide on inserting catheters and ask for suggestions during the first procedures. Pay attention: the most important thing is to be patient and keep the insertion area, as well as the catheter, clean at all times.