Clinical Review

Health Care–Associated Urinary Tract Infections: Prevention and Management



From the University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ (Dr. Beatty), and the Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX (Dr. Mohajer).


  • Objective: To review management issues regarding health care–associated urinary tract infections (UTIs) commonly encountered by practicing clinicians.
  • Methods: Review of the literature.
  • Results: Because urinary catheter (UC) placement plays a major role in the development of catheter-associated UTIs (CA-UTI), clinicians should be aware of the appropriate and inappropriate uses of UCs and their association with CA-UTI development. Removal of a UC when no longer necessary is key to preventing CA-UTI. Treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria is generally not indicated. Percutaneous nephrostomy and ureteral stenting need close monitoring, and early removal should be performed if infection is suspected. Candiduria rarely leads to symptoms unless it is related to an ascending process. Proper urine collection is crucial in determining whether contamination, colonization, or infection is present. Fluconazole is recommended in most cases of Candida UTI, while intravenous amphotericin B is recommended for fluconazole-resistant Candida species.
  • Conclusion: Continued use of evidence-based strategies for preventing and managing health care–associated UTI should lead to further improvements in patient outcomes and overall decreased rates of infection.

Keywords: bacteriuria; catheter-associated UTI; catheterization; percutaneous nephrostomy; candiduria.

Health care–associated urinary tract infections (UTIs) are estimated to be the most common adverse infectious event in U.S. hospitals, occurring in 1 of 10 admitted patients.1-3 Approximately 32% of all health care–associated infections are UTIs.1 Furthermore, urinary catheters (UCs) are associated with 8% to 21% of health care–associated infections that occur in the intensive care unit.4 The most important predisposing factor for nosocomial UTI is urinary catheterization.5 Genitourinary manipulation and/or implementation also play a major role in the development of nosocomial UTIs.

In 2008, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services instituted a new policy that reduced reimbursement rates for hospitalizations linked to health care–associated infections.6 Indwelling UCs are among the most overused health care devices in the hospital setting. They are placed in an estimated 15% to 25% of all hospitalized patients,7,8 and are often inserted in the emergency department (ED) without a physician order or appropriate indication.9 Intermittent straight catheterization, male or female condom catheterization, and/or placement of an indwelling UC are the most common causes of catheter-associated asymptomatic bacteriuria (CA-ASB) and catheter-associated UTIs (CA-UTI).5 Prevention and management of CA-ASB and CA-UTI can be challenging and require an evidence-based approach. Furthermore, guidelines for the management of UTIs in the setting of active percutaneous nephrostomy (PCN) drainage and/or ureteral stenting are not established.5 This may leave clinicians with little mainstream data to aid in management decisions.

In 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided a guideline for the appropriate and inappropriate use of indwelling UCs to help promote their proper use.10 In the time since the guideline’s initiatives were instituted around the United States, published data have shown some improvement in the use of UCs,11,12 but other recent reports indicate that rates of UC use have remained unchanged.13 This review discusses management issues regarding health care–associated UTIs that are commonly encountered by practicing clinicians, with a focus on current guidelines and evidence.


Next Article: