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Complications of urinary bladder catheters and preventive strategies

Anthony J Schaeffer, MD
Section Editor
Jerome P Richie, MD, FACS
Deputy Editor
Wenliang Chen, MD, PhD


Urinary bladder catheters are used for urinary drainage or as a means to collect urine for measurement. Many clinical situations are appropriate for the placement of indwelling urethral catheters (table 1), but too frequently they are used without proper indication or continued longer than needed [1]. Daily evaluation of the ongoing need for the indwelling catheters with removal when no longer indicated is essential to reduce complications.

This topic will discuss the complications associated with urinary catheter use. The indications for placement, types, and management of urinary catheters are discussed in detail elsewhere. (See "Placement and management of urinary bladder catheters in adults".)


Bacteriuria and urinary tract infection — The presence of bacteria in the urine is almost universal in patients with catheters in place for over one week. Rates vary depending upon the type of catheter and duration of use. The evaluation of bacteriuria and diagnosis of catheter-associated urinary tract infection is discussed in detail elsewhere. (See "Catheter-associated urinary tract infection in adults", section on 'Asymptomatic bacteriuria' and "Catheter-associated urinary tract infection in adults", section on 'Diagnosis'.)

Recurrent urinary tract infections as a result of chronic catheter use can lead to acute or chronic pyelonephritis, or bladder cancer. (See "Epidemiology and risk factors of urothelial (transitional cell) carcinoma of the bladder" and "Non-urothelial bladder cancer".)

Epididymitis — Urethral instrumentation of any type can cause epididymitis, which may rarely disseminate to the testes as orchitis [2]. (See "Evaluation of acute scrotal pain in adults".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Apr 11, 2017.
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