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Arch Intern Med. 2000 Mar 13;160(5):673-7.

The relationship between pyuria and infection in patients with indwelling urinary catheters: a prospective study of 761 patients.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, USA.



Pyuria is universally considered as essential for identifying urinary tract infections in noncatheterized patients. The utility of pyuria in the catheterized patient, to identify catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI), has not been adequately defined.


We prospectively studied 761 newly catheterized patients in a university hospital; 82 (10.8%) developed nosocomial CAUTI (> 10(3) colony-forming units per milliliter). While catheterized, each patient was seen daily, a quantitative urine culture was obtained, and the urine white blood cell concentration was measured quantitatively using a hemocytometer.


The mean urine leukocyte count in patients with CAUTI was significantly higher than in patients without infections (71 vs 4 per microliter; P= .006). Pyuria was most strongly associated with CAUTI caused by gram-negative bacilli (white blood cell count, 121 vs 4 per microliter; P = .03); infection with coagulase-negative staphylococci and enterococci (white blood cell count, 39 vs 4 per microliter; P = .25) or yeasts (white blood cell count, 25 vs 4 per microliter; P = .15) produced much less pyuria. Pyuria with a white blood cell count greater than 10 per microliter (>5 per high-power field in a conventional urinalysis) had a specificity of 90% for predicting CAUTI with greater than 10(5) colony-forming units per milliliter but a sensitivity of only 37%.


In patients with short-term indwelling urinary catheters, pyuria is less strongly correlated with CAUTI than in noncatheterized patients with urinary tract infection. The strongest association is with CAUTI caused by gram-negative bacilli; the association is far weaker for infections caused by gram-positive cocci or yeasts. Most patients with CAUTI are asymptomatic and do not have associated fever. Pyuria should not be used as the sole criterion to obtain a urine culture in a patient with a catheter.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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