Systematic review of interventions to reduce urinary tract infection in nursing home residents



Urinary tract infections (UTIs) in nursing homes are common, costly, and morbid.


Systematic literature review of strategies to reduce UTIs in nursing home residents.


Ovid MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, Web of Science and Embase through June 22, 2015.


Interventional studies with a comparison group reporting at least 1 outcome for: catheter-associated UTI (CAUTI), UTIs not identified as catheter-associated, bacteriuria, or urinary catheter use.


Two authors abstracted study design, participant and intervention details, outcomes, and quality measures.


Of 5794 records retrieved, 20 records describing 19 interventions were included: 8 randomized controlled trials, 10 pre-post nonrandomized interventions, and 1 nonrandomized intervention with concurrent controls. Quality (range, 8-25; median, 15) and outcome definitions varied greatly. Thirteen studies employed strategies to reduce catheter use or improve catheter care; 9 studies employed general infection prevention strategies (eg, improving hand hygiene, surveillance, contact precautions, reducing antibiotics). The 19 studies reported 12 UTI outcomes, 9 CAUTI outcomes, 4 bacteriuria outcomes, and 5 catheter use outcomes. Five studies showed CAUTI reduction (1 significantly); 9 studies showed UTI reduction (none significantly); 2 studies showed bacteriuria reduction (none significantly). Four studies showed reduced catheter use (1 significantly).


Studies were often underpowered to assess statistical significance; none were pooled given variety of interventions and outcomes.


Several practices, often implemented in bundles, such as improving hand hygiene, reducing and improving catheter use, managing incontinence without catheters, and enhanced barrier precautions, appear to reduce UTI or CAUTI in nursing home residents. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2017;12:356-368. © 2017 Society of Hospital Medicine

© 2017 Society of Hospital Medicine

Given the limited number of geriatricians in the U.S., hospitalists commonly manage nursing home residents admitted for post-acute care.1-4 Urinary tract infection (UTI) is one of the most common infections in nursing homes, often leading to sepsis and readmission to acute care.5 Inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat asymptomatic bacteriuria is both common and hazardous to nursing home residents.6 Up to 10% of nursing home residents will have an indwelling urinary catheter at some point during their stay.7-9 Residents with indwelling urinary catheters are at increased risk for catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) and bacteriuria, with an estimated 50% of catheterized residents developing symptomatic CAUTI.5 While urinary catheter prevalence is lower in nursing homes than in the acute care setting, duration of use is often prolonged.7,10 In a setting where utilization is low, but use is prolonged, interventions designed to reduce UTI in acutely ill patients11 may not be as helpful for preventing infection in nursing home residents.

Our objective was to review the available evidence to prevent UTIs in nursing home residents to inform both bedside care and research efforts. Two types of literature review and summary were performed. First, we conducted a systematic review of individual studies reporting outcomes of UTI, CAUTI, bacteriuria, or urinary catheter use after interventions for reducing catheter use, improving insertion and maintenance of catheters, and/or general infection prevention strategies (eg, improving hand hygiene, infection surveillance, contact precautions, standardizing UTI diagnosis, and antibiotic use). Second, we performed a narrative review to generate an overview of evidence and published recommendations in both acute care and nursing home settings to prevent UTI in catheterized and non-catheterized older adults, which is provided as a comprehensive reference table for clinicians and researchers choosing and refining interventions to reduce UTIs.


The systematic review was performed according to the criteria of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis recommendations. The protocol was registered at the PROSPERO International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews, (CRD42013005787). The narrative review was performed using the articles obtained from the systematic search and a targeted literature review by topic for a comprehensive list of interventions, including other interventions summarized in published reviews and guidelines.

Eligibility Criteria Review

Study Design. To address the breadth and depth of literature available to inform interventions to prevent UTI in nursing homes, broad eligibility criteria were applied with the expectation of varied designs and outcomes. All included studies for the systematic review were published manuscripts reporting a comparison group. We included randomized controlled trials as well as nonrandomized trials (pretest/posttest, with or without concurrent or nonconcurrent controls), with any duration of postintervention follow-up. Observational and retrospective studies were excluded.

Participants. We were interested in interventions and outcomes reported for nursing homes, defined as facilities providing short-stay skilled nursing care and/or rehabilitation, as well as long-term care. We also included evidence derived from rehabilitation facilities and spinal cord injury programs focused on reducing CAUTI risk for chronically catheterized residents. We excluded long-term acute care hospitals, hospice, psychiatric/mental health facilities, pediatric, and community dwelling/outpatient settings.

Interventions. We included interventions involving urinary catheter use such as improving appropriate use, aseptic placement, maintenance care, and prompting removal of unnecessary catheters. We included infection prevention strategies with a particular interest in hand hygiene, barrier precautions, infection control strategies, infection surveillance, use of standardized infection definitions, and interventions to improve antibiotic use. We included single and multiple interventions.

1. Healthcare-associated urinary tract infection: UTI occurring after admission to a healthcare facility, not identified specifically as catheter-associated. We categorized UTI outcomes with as much detail as provided, such as whether the reported outcome included only noncatheter-associated UTIs, the time required after admission (eg, more than 2 days), and whether the UTIs were defined by only laboratory criteria, clinically diagnosed infections, symptomatic, or long-term care specific surveillance definitions.

2. Catheter-associated urinary tract infection: UTI occurring in patients during or immediately after use of a urinary catheter. We noted whether CAUTI was defined by laboratory criteria, clinical symptoms, provider diagnosis, or antimicrobial treatment for case identification. We were primarily interested in CAUTI developing after placing an indwelling urinary catheter, commonly known as a Foley, but also in CAUTI occurring with other catheter types such as intermittent straight catheters, external or “condom” catheters, and suprapubic catheters.

3. Bacteriuria: We included the laboratory-based definition of bacteriuria as an outcome to include studies that reduced asymptomatic bacteriuria.

4. Urinary catheter use measures: This includes measures such as urinary catheter utilization ratios (catheter-days/patient-days), prevalence of urinary catheter use, or percentage of catheters with an appropriate indication.

Study Characteristics for Inclusion. Our systematic search included published papers in the English language. We did not exclude studies based on the number of facilities included or eligible, residents/patients included (based on age, gender, catheter use or type, or antibiotic use), intervention details, study withdrawal, loss to follow-up, death, or duration of pre-intervention and postintervention phases.


Data Sources and Searches

The following data sources were searched: Ovid MEDLINE (1950 to June 22, 2015), Cochrane Library via Wiley (1960 to June 22, 2015), CINAHL (1981 to June 22, 2015), Web of Science (1926 to June 22, 2015), and (1946 to June 22, 2015). Two major systematic search strategies were performed for this review (Figure). Systematic search 1 was designed broadly using all data sources described above to identify interventions aimed at reducing all UTI events (defined under “Outcomes” above) or urinary catheter use (all types), focusing on interventions evaluated in nursing homes. Systematic search 2 was conducted in Ovid MEDLINE to identify studies to reduce UTI events or urinary catheter use measures for patients with a history of long-term or chronic catheter use, including nursing homes and other post-acute care settings such as rehabilitation units or hospitals and spinal cord injury programs, which have large populations of patients with chronic catheter needs. To inform the completeness of the broader systematic searches, supplemental systematic search strategies were performed for specific topics including hydration (supplemental search 1), published work by nursing home researchers known to the authors (supplemental search 2), and contact precautions (supplemental search 3). Search 1 is available at Full search strategies for search 2 and supplemental searches are available upon request.

Study Selection

One author performed an initial screen of all records retrieved by the systematic searches by title and abstract and applied the initial exclusions (eg, non-human, no outcomes of interest), identified duplicate records, and assigned potentially relevant studies into groups such as review articles, epidemiology, interventions, and articles requiring further text review before categorization (Figure). After initial screening, Dr. Meddings reviewed the records by title/abstract. Reference lists were reviewed for potential articles for inclusion. Full-text article review informed the selection of those for dual abstraction and quality scoring performed by 2 authors, with discrepancies resolved by a third author. We requested additional information from authors from whom our search had generated only an abstract or brief report, or when additional information such as pre-intervention data was needed.12-18

Data Extraction and Quality Assessment

Relevant data regarding study design, participants, inclusion/exclusion criteria, outcomes, and quality criteria were abstracted independently by 2 authors. Methodological quality scores were assigned using a modification of the Quality index checklist developed by Downs and Black appropriate for assessing both randomized and nonrandomized studies of healthcare interventions.19 We also reviewed study funding sources and other potential quality concerns.

Data Analysis

Due to large trial heterogeneity among these studies about interventions and outcomes reported, outcome data could not be combined into summary measures for meta-analysis to give overall estimates of treatment effects.


Systematic Search Results and Study Selection

As detailed in the study flow diagram (Figure), 5794 total records were retrieved by systematic search 1 (4697 studies), search 2 (909 studies), and supplemental searches (188 studies). Hand searching of reference lists of 41 reviews (including narrative and systematic reviews) yielded 77 additional studies for consideration. Twenty-nine records on interventions that were the focus of systematic reviews, including topics of cranberry use, catheter coatings, antimicrobial prophylaxis, washout/irrigation strategies, and sterile versus clean intermittent straight catheterization, were excluded from dual abstraction. Two records were excluded after team discussion of the dual-abstraction results, because 1 study did not meet criteria as an intervention study and 1 study’s setting was not applicable in nursing homes. A total of 20 records15,20-38 (in which 19 studies were described) were selected for final inclusion for detailed assessment and reporting for the systematic review.

Table 1

Table 1 continued

Characteristics of Included Studies

Table 1 describes the 19 intervention studies in terms of design, participants, setting, and whether the study included specific categories of interventions expected to decrease UTI or catheter use. These studies included 8 randomized controlled trials (4 with cluster-randomization at the facility or unit level), 10 pre-post nonrandomized interventions, and 1 nonrandomized intervention with concurrent controls. Twelve studies included participants with or without catheters (ie, not limited to catheterized patients only) in nursing homes.15,20-31 Seven32-38 studies included catheterized patients only or settings with high expected catheterization rates; settings for these studies included spinal cord units (n=3), nursing homes (n=2), rehabilitation ward (n=1) and VA hospital (n=1), including acute care, nursing home, and rehabilitation units. Total quality scores for the studies ranged from 8 to 25 (median, 15), detailed in Supplemental Table 1.

As detailed in Table 1 and Supplemental Table 2, 7 studies22,24,26,31,32,35,36 involved single interventions and 12 studies15,20,21,23,25,27-30,33,34,37,38 included multiple interventions. Interventions to impact catheter use and care were evaluated in 13 studies, including appropriateness of use,21,25,29,30 improving catheter maintenance care,15,20,29,30 securement,15,29,30,32 prompting removal of unnecessary catheters,21,25,29,30 improving incontinence care,15,21,23,25 bladder scanners,37,38 catheter changes,35and comparing alternatives (condom catheter or intermittent straight catheter) to use of an indwelling catheter.36,38 None focused on improving aseptic insertion. General infection control practices studied included improving hand hygiene,20-22,29-31,33,34 improving antibiotic use,15,20,21,28,34 initiation of infection control programs,20,21,28 interventions to improve identification of UTIs/CAUTIs using infection symptom/sign criteria,15,20,21,34 infection surveillance as an intervention,28-30,33,34 and barrier precautions,33,34 including preemptive precautions for catheterized patients.34 Hydration was assessed in 3 studies.24-26

Table 2

Table 2 continued

Outcomes of Included Studies

Table 2 describes the studies’ outcomes reported for UTI, CAUTI, or bacteriuria.15,20-38 The outcome definitions of UTI and CAUTI varied widely. Only 2 studies22,39 reported UTI outcomes using definitions specific for nursing home settings such as McGeer’s criteria40 a detailed review and comparison of published CAUTI definitions used clinically and for surveillance in nursing homes is provided in Supplemental Table 3. Two studies reported symptomatic CAUTIs per 1000 catheter-days.32,34 Another study22 reported symptomatic CAUTIs per 1000 resident-days. Three reported symptomatic CAUTIs as counts.35,38 Saint et al36 reported CAUTIs as part of a combined outcome (ie, bacteriuria, CAUTI, or death).

The 19 studies (Table 2) reported 12 UTI outcomes,15,20,21,23,25-31,33 9 CAUTI outcomes,15,22,32,34,35,38 4 bacteriuria outcomes,24,36,38 and 5 catheter use outcomes.21,29,30,37,38 Five studies showed CAUTI reduction15,22,32,34,35 (1 significantly34); 9 studies showed UTI reduction13,18,19,21,23-25,27,28,31 (none significantly); 2 studies showed bacteriuria reduction (none significantly). One study36 reported 2 composite outcomes including bacteriuria or CAUTI or death, with statistically significant improvement reported for 1 composite measure. Four studies reported catheter use, with all showing reduced catheter use in the intervention group; however, only 1 achieved statistically significant reduction.37

Synthesis of Systematic Review Results

Overall, many studies reported decreases in UTI, CAUTI, and urinary catheter use measures but without statistical significance, with many studies likely underpowered for our outcomes of interest. Often, the outcomes of interest in this systematic review were not the main outcome for which the study was designed and originally powered. The interventions studied included several currently implemented as part of CAUTI bundles in the acute care setting, such as improving catheter use, and care and infection control strategies. Other included interventions target common challenges specific to the nursing home setting such as removing indwelling catheters upon admission to the nursing home from an acute-care facility21,25 and applying interventions to address incontinence by either general strategies21,23,25,30,38 or the use of an incontinence specialist23 to provide individual treatment plans. The only intervention that demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in CAUTI in chronically catheterized patients employed a comprehensive program to improve antimicrobial use, hand hygiene (including hand hygiene and gloves for catheter care), and preemptive precautions for patients with devices, along with promotion of standardized CAUTI definitions and active multidrug resistant organism surveillance.34

Narrative Review Results

Table 3 includes a comprehensive list of potential interventions that have been considered for prevention of UTI or CAUTI (including those in acute care and nursing home settings), as summarized from this systematic review and prior narrative or systematic reviews.43-115

Table 3

Table 3 continued

Table 3 continued


We performed a broad systematic review of strategies to decrease UTI, CAUTI, and urinary catheter use that may be helpful in nursing homes. While many studies reported decreased UTI, CAUTI, or urinary catheter use measures, few demonstrated statistically significant reductions perhaps because many were underpowered to assess statistical significance. Pooled analyses were not feasible to provide the expected impact of these interventions in the nursing home setting.

This review confirms that bundles of interventions for prevention of CAUTI have been implemented with some evidence of success in nursing home settings, with several components in common with those implemented in the acute care setting, such as hand hygiene and strategies to reduce and improve catheter use.41 Some studies focused on issues more common in nursing homes such as chronic catheterization and incontinence. A nursing home CAUTI bundle should be designed with the resources and challenges present in the nursing home environment in mind, and with recognition that, although the number of patients with catheters is less than in acute care, there will be more patients with chronic catheterization needs and incontinence.

Although catheter utilization in nursing homes is low, further reductions in catheter days and CAUTIs can be achieved. Catheter removal reminders and stop orders have demonstrated a greater than 50% reduction in CAUTIs in acute care settings;11 an example of a stop-order intervention in nursing homes is trial removal of indwelling catheters present at facility admission without clear urologic need present at the time of admission.25 Nursing home interventions to avoid catheter placement should include incontinence programs, discussion of alternatives to indwelling urinary catheters with patients, families, and frontline personnel, and urinary retention protocols. Programs to reduce CAUTI should include education to improve aseptic insertion, and to maintain awareness and proper care of catheters in place by regular assessment of catheter necessity, securement, hand hygiene, and preemptive barrier precautions for catheterized patients. Interventions that focus on improving appropriate use of urine tests and antibiotics to treat UTIs can also significantly affect the rates of reported symptomatic CAUTIs, with the potential to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use.20,21

The main limitation of this review is that many studies provided little information about their intervention and definition of outcomes. The strength of this review is the detailed and broad search strategy applied with generous inclusion of interventions and outcomes to highlight the available evidence and details of interventions that have been studied and implemented.


This review synthesizes the current state of evidence and proposes strategies to reduce UTIs in nursing homes. Interventions that motivate catheter avoidance and catheter removal to prevent CAUTI in acute care11 and nursing home settings are supported by the strongest available evidence, although the strength of that evidence is less in the nursing home setting. Limitations notwithstanding, interventions such as incontinence care planning and hydration programs can reduce UTI in this population and is important for overall wellbeing.


The authors appreciate the guidance that Vineet Chopra MD, MSc, provided regarding options for methodological quality assessment tools, and the assistance of Mary Rogers PhD, MS, in interpreting the published Downs and Black Quality Index items, which informed our modification of this tool for application in this study. The authors appreciate, also, the feedback provided by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Content and Materials Development Committee for the AHRQ Safety Program for Long-Term Care: Preventing CAUTI and other Healthcare-associated Infections.


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) contract #HHSA290201000025I provided funding for this study, which was developed in response to AHRQ Task Order #8 for ACTION II RFTO 26 CUSP for CAUTI in LTC. AHRQ developed the details of the task and provided comments on a draft report, which informed the report submitted to AHRQ in December 2013, used to inform the interventions for a national collaborative ( Dr. Meddings’s effort on this project was funded by concurrent effort from her AHRQ (K08 HS19767). Dr. Saint’s and Dr. Krein’s effort on this project was funded by concurrent effort from the Veterans Affairs National Center for Patient Safety, Ann Arbor Patient Safety Center of Inquiry. Dr. Meddings’s other research is funded by AHRQ (2R01HS018334-04), the NIH-LRP program, the VA National Center for Patient Safety, and the VA Ann Arbor Patient Safety Center of Inquiry. Dr. Krein’s other research is funded by a VA Health Services Research and Development Award (RCS 11-222). Dr. Mody’s other research is funded by VA Healthcare System Geriatric Research Clinical Care Center (GRECC), NIA-Pepper Center, NIA (R01AG032298, R01AG041780, K24AG050685-01). Dr. Saint has received fees for serving on advisory boards for Doximity and Jvion. All other authors report no financial conflicts of interest. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the sponsor, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These analyses were presented in part as a poster presentation at the ID Week Annual Meeting on October 10, 2014 in Philadelphia, PA.


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