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Elderly Women More Likely to Receive Unnecessary Catheters

US researchers have found that more than any other demographic group, elderly women are more likely to receive catheters when doing so is unnecessary according to the November issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. The study focused on a Michigan hospital over 12 weeks at 532 instances of catheter insertions in emergency room patients. After the study was completed, the authors discovered that women 80 years old or older were almost three times more likely than patients under 50 and almost twice as likely as men to have a catheter inappropriately inserted. In about 40% of patients, there was no documentation from a physician to support the decision to insert a catheter. The main danger of inappropriate catheter placement is the high risk of hospital acquired infections, mainly urinary tract infections (UTIs). The more catheters are erroneously inserted in elderly women the higher the risk of contracting such an infection. These infections are almost 100% preventable by following established guidelines of care. In fact, these infections are so preventable that they are typically no longer reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid. Despite the high rates of catheter-related UTIs and other infections, urinary catheter utilization is rarely systematically monitored by hospitals. If these statistics are not monitored, how can hospitals hope to do better? UTIs and other infections can be potentially deadly to the elderly. These alarming statistics show that physicians and nurses are consciously disregarding evidence-based guidelines on catheter insertion, resulting in the unnecessary exposure of elderly women and other patients to infection.