• 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)