When we do invasive procedures, we should consider whether we are doing the procedure for the right reason, that the right equipment is used, and in an aseptic manner and maintained correctly.
Should we regard urinary catheterisation as a procedure less important than let's say, central line insertion? Should we be any less careful?
Well, the UK Department of Health figures from 2001 showed that about 25% of patients end up being catheterised during their inpatient stay. The risk of developing bacteriuria is about 5% per day and of those who develop it, about 4% will develop bacteraemia. The death rate from such bacteraemia can be as high as 30%. Clearly, the numbers of patients developing infection are not insignificant at all with the knock on effects of increased morbidity, increased hospital stay, increased cost and even death.
In a review of awareness of catheterisation, the attending was the least likely to know that their patient had been catheterised and up to 22% of residents were also unaware! Unawareness led to an increase in the inappropriate use of catheters. Documentation of the reason for catheterisation was also shown to be poor. In several studies based on the appropriateness of catheterisation, up to 50% of such procedures were deemed inappropriate!
Hence, when we perform urinary catheterisation, we need to appreciate why we are doing it and is there another option. Patients should NOT be catheterised to just 'help the staff'. It is an unfortunate practice in some institutions to place a catheter in elderly patients who are otherwise continent because of mobility problems such that the staff need not toilet the patient regularly. This is not a good reason to catheterise a patient.
Even patients with low urine output do not always need to be catheterised. A bladder volume scanner can be used to estimate the amount instead of passing a catheter.
If we do decide to catheterise, the right equipment should be used including sterile gloves, a sterile sheet (with a circle cut in the middle for exposure of the genitalia) and sterile 'one use' lidocaine gel. All equipment should be prepared in advance of putting on the gloves.
There is no excuse for using non-sterile gloves or previously opened gel, as this increases the risk of transferring bacterial infection into an otherwise sterile environment and which bacteria may be potentially highly resistant to antibiotics e.g. pseudomonas.
A basic but important thing to do is Wash Your Hands before the procedure. Medical staff are not immune from carrying infection. Far from it. Use of a sterilising hand wash is ideal.
There are several instructive formats available for teaching the Global Standard of urinary catheterisation and they include the New England Journal of Medicine videos of the procedure for men and women and the new ABC of Practical Procedures, BMJ Press 2010.
- In the following explanations, the doctor has a 'clean hand' for using the sterile equipment and a 'dirty hand' for holding the penis or preparing the female labia. After placing on sterile gloves, and a sterile drape over the groin to expose only the genitalia, in men, the dirty hand pulls the penis is a vertical direction. If there is a foreskin present, it should be retracted with the dirty hand and the glans cleaned with sterile water using the clean hand. There is no reduction in bacterial infection from using a sterilising agent on the glans. Likewise, in female catheterisation, the labia should be parted with the dirty hand and the urethral area cleaned using the clean hand.
- Following this, 10ml of STERILE lidocaine 'one use' gel should be injected down the male urethra via a prepared syringe until all of it has been instilled. The tip of the penis is then pressed to maintain the gel inside the urethra for about 1 minute to allow the lidocaine to take its anaesthetic effect. Then, the pre-opened 12F-14F male catheter is placed down the urethra. The use of such gel is to reduce trauma, patient discomfort and infection.
- When the prostate is reached the patient should be told to take deep breaths which can relax the bladder neck and the catheter can be twisted slightly which can help entry of it into the bladder. In female catheterisation, as the urethral is very short, the gel can be placed on the shorter female catheter after which it can then be inserted. Once inside the bladder, the catheter is pushed in to the full extent and sterile water (usually 10ml) is injected into the balloon port and the catheter is pulled back. Urine should flow out into a prepared kidney dish and then, the collection bag can be attached. In men, the foreskin should then be return to its usual position to prevent the glans from swelling.
- The catheter bag should be placed on a stand by the bed and it should NOT touch the floor. It should NOT be placed above the level of the bladder to avoid reflux of urine from the bag into the bladder. The bag should be in a place which avoids the lower exit tubing coming into contact with footware e.g. when staff come to review the patient.
The procedure should always be documented in the patient notes in addition to why it was necessary to place the catheter in the first place. Another important thing is to document the residual volume to know if the patient has outflow obstruction.
For example one can write the following in the notes, DATE / TIME: Mr Jones not passed any urine for 12 hours. Complaining of pain in the lower abdomen. Examination revealed a large distended bladder than was dull to percussion up to his umbilicus. Prostate examination: enlarged, no central sulcus, smooth and non-tender ; likely BPH. Likely urinary outflow obstruction from BPH. Need to rule out UTI. Hence, need for insertion of Foley Catheter.
Procedure explained to patient with his verbal consent to proceed. Aseptic technique carried out. 10ml of 'instillgel' inserted down the penis. A 12F Foley catheter passed with ease into the bladder. Free flow of clear urine observed. 1200ml of residual urine in the bag post-catheterisation. Sample of urine sent for MC&S [microscopy, culture and sensitivity]. Foreskin returned to usual position post-catheterisation. Collection bag placed on bedside stand. Patient now much improved with relief of pain.
The need for the patient to continue using the catheter should be reviewed on a daily basis. It should not be kept in place just for the staffs' convenience. If the patient needs to toilet at night then it is the ward staffs' job to assist the patient rather than getting the doctor to come at 2am to put in a catheter for incontinence. Moreover, a diaper can be used instead of inserting a catheter. However, there will be some occasions when placing a catheter may be necessary e.g. try to heal decubitus ulcers and avoiding urinary contamination of the sores. However, such sores should usually be covered to aid healing with water-proof dressings. The need for a 'Foley' should be assessed on an individual basis rather than carte blanche' insertion of catheters.
We should also be aware that if we decide to remove the catheter, it should be done in the morning as a Trial With Out Catheter (TWOC). Hence, if the patient goes into obstruction, it will usually be during the daylight hours when the usual team are present and a catheter can be reinserted. It is not good etiquette to expect the on-call doctor to perform a chore that the daytime team can easily do.
Condom Catheters for men who are incontinent can be used in place of a Foley catheter. There is also Intermittent Catheterisation which can be taught to competent patients, which may avoid the need for a long term catheter.
Essentially, we must try and cut down on nosocomial infection. We must take all procedures seriously and use due care and attention to maintain aseptic technique. Just because we regard good aseptic technique important for CV line insertion, it does not mean that it is unimportant for Foley catheter insertion.