Choosing Wisely:

Don’t perform urinalysis, urine culture, blood culture or C. difficile testing unless patients have signs or symptoms of infection. Tests can be falsely positive leading to over diagnosis and overtreatment.

Rationale and Comments: Although important for diagnosing disease when used in patients with appropriate signs or symptoms, these tests often are positive when an infection is not present. For example, in the absence of signs or symptoms, a positive blood culture may represent contamination, a positive urine culture could represent asymptomatic bacteriuria, and a positive test for C. difficile could reflect colonization. There are no perfect tests for these or most infections. If these tests are used in patients with low likelihood of infection, they will result in more false positive tests than true positive results, which will lead to treating patients without infection and exposing them to risks of antibiotics without benefits of treating an infection.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
  • Sources:
  • Expert consensus
  • Disciplines:
  • Infectious disease
  • References: • Peterson LR, Robicsek A. Does my patient have Clostridium difficile infection? Ann Intern Med. 2009 Aug 4;151(3):176-9.
    • Dubberke ER, Carling P, Carrico R, Donskey CJ, Loo VG, McDonald LC, Maragakis LL, Sandora TJ, Weber DJ, Yokoe DS, Gerding DN. Strategies to prevent Clostridium difficile infections in acute care hospitals: 2014 update. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2014 Sep;35 Suppl 2:S48-65.
    • Lo E, Nicolle LE, Coffin SE, Gould C, Maragakis LL, Meddings J, Pegues DA, Pettis AM, Saint S, Yokoe DS. Strategies to prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections in acute care hospitals: 2014 update. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2014 Sep;35 Suppl 2:S32-47.
    • Bates DW, Goldman L, Lee TH. Contaminant blood cultures and resource utilization. The true consequences of false-positive results. JAMA. 1991 Jan 16;265(3):365-9.

    Email Alerts

    Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

    Sign Up Now