Alternatives to Indwelling Urinary Catheters Help Patients Avoid Infections and Urethral Trauma

Strategies for infection prevention cover decisions about catheter use, removal, and maintenance, as well as urine culture stewardship
August 25, 2023

ARLINGTON, Va. (August 25, 2023) — Avoiding the unnecessary use of indwelling catheters and promptly removing catheters that are no longer needed are the first steps in preventing catheter-associated urinary tract infections in acute care hospitals, according to new recommendations developed by five medical societies and published today in the journal Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

“Urinary catheters can be associated with infection and also with non-infectious harms like trauma and obstruction,” said Payal Patel, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Health and lead author of Strategies to Prevent Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections in Acute Care Hospitals: 2022 Update. “Prevention of infection related to use of typical indwelling urinary catheters is multidisciplinary. Many members of the healthcare team, including doctors and nurses, have a role.”

Urinary tract infections are one of the most common healthcare-associated infections, and up to three-quarters of urinary tract infections are caused by an indwelling urinary catheter. Catheter-related infections have been associated with higher hospital mortality and increased length of stay at a cost of nearly $2,000 per hospitalized patient.

The updated recommendations include a model, “Disrupting the Lifecycle of the Urinary Catheter,” which identifies alternatives to indwelling catheters, shows how to follow guidance for safely inserting and maintaining catheters, and prompts healthcare personnel to initiate timely removal. Non-catheter strategies include prompt toileting, urinals, bedside commodes, incontinence garments, and/or the use of non-indwelling catheter strategies such as intermittent straight catheterization or external urinary catheters.

Since duration of catheterization is the most important risk factor for developing infection, the authors recommend at least daily review of continued catheterization, which can include automated reminders of the presence of a catheter or review during rounds of all patients with urinary catheters. Other essential practices include ensuring supplies are readily available for non-catheter and catheter management of patients’ urinary issues, and ensuring when catheters are used, they are positioned to beds and wheelchairs in ways that avoid kinking of tubing, which increases the risk of infection. Educating healthcare professionals about urine culture stewardship while providing indications for urine cultures is another new essential practice.

The document updates Strategies to Prevent Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections in Acute Care Hospitals published in 2014. The Compendium, first published in 2008, is sponsored by the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology (SHEA) and is the product of a collaborative effort led by SHEA, with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, the American Hospital Association, and The Joint Commission, with major contributions from representatives of several organizations and societies with content expertise. It is a multiyear, highly collaborative guidance-writing effort by over 100 experts from around the world.  

The urinary catheter paper is the final installment in the latest Compendium update, which began with publication of strategies to prevent ventilator and non-ventilator associated pneumonia in May of 2022. The societies also recently published a new Compendium section on implementation of infection prevention strategies and updated a section on hand hygiene, which can be each applied to condition-specific infection prevention strategies. Other updates describe strategies for preventing methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infections, Clostridioides difficile infections, surgical site infections, and central line-associated bloodstream infections.

Each Compendium article contains infection prevention strategies, performance measures, and approaches to implementation. Compendium recommendations are derived from a synthesis of systematic literature review, evaluation of the evidence, practical and implementation-based considerations, and expert consensus.


About Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
Published through a partnership between the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and Cambridge University Press, Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology provides original, peer-reviewed scientific articles for anyone involved with an infection control or epidemiology program in a hospital or healthcare facility. ICHE is ranked 24th out of 94 Infectious Disease Journals in the latest Web of Knowledge Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters.

About the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) 

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) is a professional society representing more than 2,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals around the world who possess expertise and passion for healthcare epidemiology, infection prevention, and antimicrobial stewardship. The society’s work improves public health by establishing infection-prevention measures and supporting antibiotic stewardship among healthcare providers, hospitals, and health systems. This is accomplished by leading research studies, translating research into clinical practice, developing evidence-based policies, optimizing antibiotic stewardship, and advancing the field of healthcare epidemiology. SHEA and its members strive to improve patient outcomes and create a safer, healthier future for all. Visit SHEA online at, and

Contact: Christine Vaughan / / 703-587-6177

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