Silver-coated catheters cut infections & may save money, analysis finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Almost anyone who has been in a hospital knows it: Having a urinary catheter is one of the least pleasant parts of your stay. But it can also be risky; catheters are the most common source of hospital-acquired infections, leading to hundreds of thousands of painful and costly urinary tract infections that must be treated with antibiotics.

Now, a new University of Michigan analysis suggests that there may be a way to cut catheter-related problems in half. Silver-coated catheters, the study indicates, could reduce patients' pain, suffering and hospital time, while cutting costs for hospitals and insurers. While they're more expensive than uncoated catheters, the silver-coated models prevent more urinary tract infections, or UTIs, the analysis suggests, which may also save money in the long run.

The study, in the Archives of Internal Medicine's Sept. 25 issue, is based on a sophisticated computer simulation incorporating past research on the UTI rates of different kinds of catheters and the cost of treating patients for such infections. The authors have no financial relationship with any catheter manufacturer.

Already, the results have prompted the U-M Health System to switch to silver-coated catheters for patients at highest risk of infection. The study's authors have now launched a prospective study to see if the predictions produced by the simulation come true in practice.

"We can't say that silver-coated catheters are a silver bullet," says Sanjay Saint, M.D., MPH, an assistant professor in the U-M Department of Internal Medicine. "But our study suggests that for about five dollars more apiece, the risk of a UTI is significantly reduced, and hundreds or even thousands of dollars can be saved for every symptomatic infection prevented. Additionally, preventing this common hospital-acquired infection will reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics and thus may decrease the chance that bacteria will develop antibio

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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