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Quality Gaps in Documenting Urinary Catheter Use and Infectious Outcomes

  • Barbara W. Trautner (a1) (a2), Jan E. Patterson (a3) (a4), Nancy J. Petersen (a1) (a2), Sylvia Hysong (a1) (a2), Deborah Horwitz (a1) (a2), G. John Chen (a1) (a2), Patti Grota (a4) and Aanand D. Naik (a1) (a2)...

To describe the frequency of use of all types of urinary catheters, including but not limited to indwelling catheters, as well as positive cultures associated with the various types. We also determined the accuracy of catheter-days reporting at our institution.


Prospective, observational trial based on patient-level review of the electronic medical record. Chart review was compared with standard methods of catheter surveillance and reporting by infection control personnel.


Ten internal medicine and 5 long-term care wards in 2 tertiary care Veterans Affairs hospitals in Texas from July 2010 through June 2011.


The study included 7,866 inpatients.


Measurements included patient bed-days; days of use of indwelling, external, suprapubic, and intermittent urinary catheters; number of urine cultures obtained and culture results; and infection control reports of indwelling catheter-days.


We observed 7,866 inpatients with 128,267 bed-days on acute medicine and extended care wards during the study. A urinary catheter was used on 36.9% of the total bed-days observed. Acute medicine wards collected more urine cultures per 1,000 bed-days than did the extended care wards (75.9 and 10.4 cultures per 1,000 bed-days, respectively; P < .0001 ). Catheter-days were divided among indwelling-catheter-days (47.8%), external-catheter-days (48.4%), and other (intermittent- and suprapubic-catheter-days, 3.8%). External catheters contributed to 376 (37.3%) of the 1,009 catheter-associated positive urine cultures. Urinary-catheter-days reported to the infection control department missed 20.1% of the actual days of indwelling catheter use, whereas 12.0% of their reported catheter-days were false.


Urinary catheter use was extremely common. External catheters accounted for a large portion of catheter-associated bacteriuria, and standard practices for tracking urinary-catheter-days were unreliable.

Trial Registration. identifier: NCT01052545.

Corresponding author
MEDVAMC HSR&D CoE (152), 2002 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77030 (
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Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
  • ISSN: 0899-823X
  • EISSN: 1559-6834
  • URL: /core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology
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