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Silver Catheter Reduces Risk
of Infections By Lindsey Alpert
Daily Staff Reporter
Silver may earn its weight in gold for hospital
patients in need of a urinary catheter.
In a new study published in this week's issue
of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers at the University
have found silver-alloy-coated catheters prevent urinary tract
infections in patients and are cost effective.
A catheter is tubing that is inserted into the
urethra to collect urine from patients. Nearly four million hospital
patients in the United States use a catheter for some time during
their hospital stay.
Catheters also increase the risk of urinary tract
infections, causing about 600,000 each year, according to the
Center for Disease Control.
"Most of the bacteria come from the intestinal
track," University Health System Medical Director of Infection
Control Carol Chenoweth, who co-authored the study. "The
bacteria can live on the skin around the urethra and get in by
way of the catheter."
Tests using silver alloy catheters have shown
they decrease the risk of urinary tract infections, which may
reduce the total cost of treatment by eliminating urinary tract
"Silver has an anti-bacterial activity,"
said Internal Medicine Prof. Sanjay Saint, who led the study.
"The exact mechanism is unclear, but there are several theories."
Saint examined the economic consequences of using
a silver-coated catheter opposed to regular catheter by looking
at past data regarding the rates of urinary tract infections and
the cost of treatment.
A silver-coated catheter costs five dollars more
than the $12.45 regular catheter.
"We found that in certain patient populations
a silver-alloy catheter should be strongly considered to prevent
the common, costly and morbid complication of urinary tract infections,"
Researchers looked at data from patients that
used a catheter for two to 10 days, in hospital units for intensive
care, post-surgical care, general medical care and urology care.
Rates of symptomatic urinary tract infection were
reduced by 47 percent and the chance of bacteremia, bacteria getting
into blood, by 44 percent.
The health system may also benefit by lower health
care costs," said co-author Mark Fendrick, an internal medicine
associate professor and the University's Consortium for Health
Outcomes, Innovation and Cost Effectiveness Studies co-director.
The scientists estimated that the cost of detecting
and treating a symptomatic urinary tract infection was about $400
and the cost of the bacteremia infection at roughly $2,000.
"We thought that was a conservative estimate,"
Saint said. "We actually used a range and we said it can
range between $835 and $4,082."
Hospitals, including the University Hospitals,
are looking in to the benefits of using silver-coated catheters
on patients fitting the criteria.
"We are using the catheters in our
hospital but we chose to use it in patients that will use catheters
the longest," Chenoweth said.
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