Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of having a bladder catheter is the risk of urinary tract infection. If you have ever had a UTI, you’ll know how painful and unpleasant they can be. Catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) can kill you (see Relationship of catheter-associated urinary tract infection to mortality). CAUTIs account for about 40% of all healthcare-associated infections and about 13,000 deaths each year – reference)
And the problems caused by CAUTIs are not limited to individuals. Health care costs are hugely increased by CAUTI, responsible for $0.4-0.5 billion per year nationally in the US, According to the CDC.
The other major problem caused by CAUTI is the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which in itself is a very scary thing if you let yourself think about it. A lot of people are treated with antibiotics even when they are not symptomatic. As explained in my article on urinary tract infections – Urinary Tract Infection and Catheter Care – if you have an indwelling catheter in your bladder, then almost by definition, you WILL have bacteria in your bladder. The only question is whether these bacteria actually cause an infection. There is a HUGE difference in HAVING the bacteria, and being sick with UTI, which is when those bacteria invade your tissues and cause all the nasty symptoms, like pain everywhere, especially in and around the bladder/urethra/butt/genital area, along with headache, flank pain, and fever. Fun stuff. But many medical practitioners will see asymptomatic bacteriuria (bacteria in the urine NOT caused by sample contamination) in urine, and automatically prescribe antibiotics. And the overuse of antibiotics, especially when combined with patients not taking it correctly (not finishing the whole bottle, or skipping doses, etc.) is a major cause of antibiotic resistant bacteria – the stuff of scary science fiction films.
So many of the causes of the above cost and death and pain is preventable! That’s what is so amazing and why this information should be more “out there.” Firstly, hospitals often insert urinary catheters when it is not necessary. The best and primary way to reduce CAUTIs and all their bad effects is simply not to put a catheter in if it is not absolutely necessary. To further reduce the bad, NOT prescribing antibiotics when a patient is not actually infected (except in specific and informed situations like before a surgery, etc.) can reduce the incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
A study done in the Emmental Regional Hospital in Switzerland demonstrated a significant reduction in the use of urinary catheters and prescription of antibiotics for asymptomatic bacteriuria. So we KNOW it can be done. Spread the word!
Here are the details of the above-mentioned study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23740332?dopt=Abstract