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Care of patients with long-term indwelling urinary catheters.

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Sarah Cole Hirsh Institute for Best Nursing Practices, Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Cleveland, OH, USA.


The complications and management of long-term indwelling catheters used for urinary retention and incontinence were reviewed. Research evidence from 1992 - 2002 was located through searches of CINAHL (38 articles), and Medline (89 articles). Fifty studies were critiqued for this review. The most common complications of long-term indwelling catheters are bacteriuria, encrustation, and blockage. Less common is the prevalence of bacteremia and renal disease. Risk factors for bacteriuria include female gender, older age, and long-term indwelling catheter use. Urinary white blood cells are the best indicator of urinary tract infection. For drainable catheter systems used by community dwelling adults, daily bag cleaning with a diluted bleach solution (1:10) is effective in reducing bacterial counts to negligible numbers. Application of topical antibiotic cream to the meatus around the catheter does not reduce bacteriuria. Silicone catheters and larger lumen size catheters are more resistant to encrustation than other catheter types and smaller lumen size catheters. Acidifying the urine without removing the urease-producing bacteria does not reduce encrustation. Removal of catheter blockage is preventive for renal disease. Because of the complications of long-term indwelling catheter usage, periodic assessment and voiding trials should be used to determine the continued need for a catheter. Evidence-based recommendations for managing indwelling urinary catheters include screening for risk factors and evaluating urinary white blood cell count for infection, and assessment of the continued need for a catheter. Interventions include consideration of closed versus open drainage systems, type of catheter, and size of catheter lumen.

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