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A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system. This includes the urethra, a tube that carries urine out of the body, the bladder, and the kidneys. A catheter-associated UTI is an infection that starts while a catheter is in place or shortly after.

A catheter is a tube that is passed through the urethra into the bladder. It helps drain urine out when the body is not able to. This can happen during surgery or after surgery if the area needs to heal. Sometimes it is needed for problems with the bladder or urethra. The urine passes from the bladder, through the tube, to a bag outside the body.

The Urinary Tract
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CAUTI is caused by germs, such as bacteria or yeasts. Bacteria is the most common cause.

The catheter makes it easier for germs to pass into the urinary system. Infections can occur when:

  • The catheter picks up a germ when it is being placed.
  • Urine in the bag flows back into the bladder.
  • The catheter becomes contaminated after a bowel movement.
  • Equipment is not used or cleaned correctly.
  • There is leaking around the catheter

Risk Factors

CAUTI is more common in women and people of increased age. Other factors that may increase your chance of a CAUTI include:

  • Use of a catheter for more than 2 days
  • A history of urinary tract infections
  • Kidney problems
  • Having diabetes


Symptoms may not always be present. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Fever
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Only producing a small amount of urine
  • Burning or painful urination
  • Back or abdominal pain
  • Pus or blood in the urine


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor will suspect a UTI based on this information.

To confirm the diagnosis or to look for other causes of your symptoms, the doctor will order:

  • Urinalysis—a lab examination of a urine sample
  • Urine culture—to grow and identify the specific germ involved
  • Blood tests may also be done to look for evidence of infection


CAUTIs can be more difficult to treat than other UTIs. The first thing to do is remove the current catheter. Antibiotics will be given to help fight infections caused by bacteria. Antibiotics may be given through an IV or by injection for severe infections.

Increasing fluids is also encouraged to flush germs out of the urinary tract.


Healthcare professionals will take steps to reduce your chance of a CAUTI, such as:

  • Only using a catheter when necessary.
  • Washing their hands before and after touching the catheter.
  • Removing the catheter as soon as possible.

To lower their chance of a CAUTI patients should:

  • Ask if a catheter is still needed and when it will be removed.
  • Ask healthcare professionals to wash their hands before and after touching the catheter.
  • Make sure the urine bag is below the level of the bladder.
  • Avoid pulling or twisting the catheter tubing.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Institute for Healthcare Improvement 


Health Canada 

Infection Prevention and Control Canada 


Catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: . Updated January 26, 2017. Accessed June 22, 2017.

Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated October 16, 2015. Accessed March 28, 2017.

Frequently asked questions about catheter-associated urinary tract infections. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated October 2, 2015. Accessed March 28, 2017.

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