BEWARE THE CATHETER
One way to avoid an in-hospital infection
No one expects a hospital stay to make them sick, but it happens all the time.
An estimated two million patients contract infections while in the hospital annually, and about 40 percent are urinary tract infections. The main culprit: catheters. About one in every four patients gets a urinary catheter, and having it in place for more than two days increases the likelihood of developing a painful bladder infection or even a blood infection.
According to a University of Michigan study, the risk of infection could be reduced—and millions of patients spared longer-than-necessary discomfort and embarrassment—if their hospital records contained reminders for doctors to reauthorize or order removal of the catheter after two days. When busy doctors followed such reminders, the percentage of days subjects spent on a catheter went down by about 25 percent, says the study’s lead author Sanjay Saint, MD, a hospitalist and associate professor of internal medicine at the Ann Arbor VA Medical Center and the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.
“Research has shown that many doctors forget which patients have catheters and that catheters stay in too long without appropriate medical justification,” says Dr. Saint. Currently, only a few hospitals have catheter-reminder systems, so play it safe and institute your own infection-protection plan. “If you’re still using a catheter after 48 hours, find out whether removal has been overlooked,” advises Dr. Saint. “Every day, ask the doctor if you still need the catheter. If you don’t feel comfortable asking—or are unable to—have a family member or friend politely inquire whether it is still necessary.”