Choosing Wisely:

Don't obtain a urine culture unless there are clear signs and symptoms that localize to the urinary tract.

Rationale and Comments: Chronic asymptomatic bacteriuria is frequent in the long-term care setting, with prevalence as high as 50%. A positive urine culture in the absence of localized urinary tract infection (UTI) symptoms (i.e., dysuria, frequency, urgency) is of limited value in identifying whether a patient’s symptoms are caused by a UTI. Colonization (a positive bacterial culture without signs or symptoms of a localized UTI) is a common problem in long-term care facilities that contributes to the overuse of antibiotic therapy in this setting, leading to an increased risk of diarrhea, resistant organisms and infection due to Clostridium difficile. An additional concern is that the finding of asymptomatic bacteriuria may lead to an erroneous assumption that a UTI is the cause of an acute change of status, hence failing to detect or delaying the more timely detection of the patient’s more serious underlying problem. A patient with advanced dementia may be unable to report urinary symptoms. In this situation, it is reasonable to obtain a urine culture if there are signs of systemic infection such as fever (increase in temperature of equal to or greater than 2°F [1.1°C] from baseline) leukocytosis, or a left shift or chills in the absence of additional symptoms (e.g., new cough) to suggest an alternative source of infection.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • American Medical Directors Association
  • Sources:
  • Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines
  • Disciplines:
  • Infectious disease
  • Urologic
  • References: • Stone ND, Ashraf MS, Calder J, Crnich CJ, Crossley K, Drinka PJ, Gould CV, Juthani-Mehta M, Lautenbach E, Loeb M, MacCannell T, Malani TN, Mody L, Mylotte JM, Nicolle LE, Roghmann MC, Schweon SJ, Simor AE, Smith PW, Stevenson KB, Bradley SF. Surveillance definitions of infections in long-term care facilities: revisiting the McGeer Criteria. Infec Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2012;33(10):965-77.
    • Drinka P. Treatment of bacteriuria without urinary signs, symptoms, or systemic infectious illness (S/S/S). J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2009 Oct;10(8):516-9.
    • Arinzon Z, Peisakh A, Shuval I, Shabat S, Berner YN. Detection of urinary tract infection (UTI) in long-term care setting: is the multireagent strip an adequate diagnostic tool? Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2009 Mar-Apr;48(2):227-31.
    • High KP, Bradley SF, Gravenstein S, Mehr DR, Quagliarello VJ Richards C, Yoshikawa TT. Clinical practice guideline for the evaluation of fever and infection in older adult residents of long-term care facilities: 2008 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Mar;57(3):375-94.
    • Zabarsky TF, Sethi AK, Donskey CJ. Sustained reduction in inappropriate treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria in a long-term care facility through an educational intervention. Am J Infect Control. 2008 Sep;36(7):476-80.
    • Richards CL Jr. Infection control in long-term care facilities. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2007 Mar;8(3 Suppl):S18-25.
    • Ducharme J, Neilson S, Ginn JL. Can urine cultures and reagent test strips be used to diagnose urinary tract infection in elderly emergency department patients without focal urinary symptoms? CJEM. 2007 Mar;9(2):87-92.
    • Loeb M, Brazil K, Lohfeld L, McGeer A, Simor A, Stevenson K, Zoutman D, Smith S, Liu X, Walter SD. Effect of a multifaceted intervention on number of antimicrobial prescriptions for suspected urinary tract infections in residents of nursing homes: cluster randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2005 Sep 24;331(7518):669.
    • Loeb M, Brazil K, Lohfeld L, McGeer A, Simor A, Stevenson K, Walter S, Zoutman D. Optimizing antibiotics in residents of nursing homes: protocol of a randomized trial. BMC Health Serv Res. 2002 Sep 3;2(1):17.
    • Nicolle LE. Urinary tract infection in geriatric and institutionalized patients. Curr Opin Urol. 2002 Jan;12(1):51-5.
    • Boscia JA, Kobasa WD, Abrutyn E, Levison ME, Kaplan AM, Kaye D. Lack of association between bacteriuria and symptoms in the elderly. Am J Med. 1986 Dec;81(6):979-82.
    • Nicolle LE, Bentley D, Garibaldi R, Neuhaus E, Smith P. SHEA Long-Term Care Committee. Antimicrobial use in long-term-care facilities. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 1996;17:119-28.
    • High KP, Bradley SF, Gravenstein S, Mehr DR, Quagliarello VJ, Richards C, Yoshikawa TT. Clinical practice guideline for the evaluation of fever and infection in older adult residents of long-term care facilities: 2008 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2009;48:149-71.

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