February 1989

Once-Daily Irrigation of Long-term Urethral Catheters With Normal SalineLack of Benefit

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Family Medicine (Drs Muncie and Hoopes) and the Division of Infectious Diseases of the Department of Medicine (Ms Damron and Drs Tenney and Warren), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Arch Intern Med. 1989;149(2):441-443. doi:10.1001/archinte.1989.00390020133028

• Urinary incontinence is often managed with a long-term urethral catheter after other methods have failed. Such urethral catheterization is associated with polymicrobial bacteriuria, catheter obstruction, fever, bacteremia, urinary tract stones, and death. Periodic catheter irrigation is a common but untested management procedure intended to prevent catheter obstruction, fevers, and/or bacteremia. To evaluate this technique, we performed a randomized crossover trial comparing ten weeks of once-daily normal saline irrigation with ten weeks of no irrigation in 32 long-term catheterized women. The incidence of catheter obstructions and febrile episodes and the prevalence and species of bacteriuria were similar whether examined as completed crossover patients (N=23) or as partially completed trials (N=9). Once-daily irrigation with normal saline of long-term urethral catheters is a time-consuming and costly procedure that is unlikely to have an impact on the morbidity associated with such catheters.

(Arch Intern Med 1989;149:441-443)