Should male patients with suspected urinary tract infection routinely undergo a prostate exam?

Yes! That’s because any urinary tract infection (UTI) in men has the potential for prostatic involvement1 —-as high as 83% by one report. 2  

To make the matters more confusing, patients with acute bacterial prostatitis (ABP) often present with symptoms just like those of UTI,  such as urinary frequency, dysuria, malaise, fever, and myalgias. 3  In the elderly, atypical presentation is not uncommon (eg, confusion, incontinence, fall). 4  Under these circumstances, bacteriuria and pyuria may also be related to ABP and the prostate exam should be an important part of your evaluation.

Although the sensitivity of prostate tenderness on digital rectal exam varies widely for ABP (9%-100%), a painful exam should raise suspicion for ABP, and by itself may be an independent predictor for clinical and bacteriologic failure of therapy. 1 Along with tenderness, fluctuance of prostate, particularly in the setting of voiding difficulties and longer duration of symptoms, may also suggest the presence of prostatic abscess. 5,6 

But be gentle when performing a prostate exam and don’t massage it because you could potentially cause bacteremia and worsening of sepsis! 1,7

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  1. Etienne M, Chavanet P, Sibert L, et al. Acute bacterial prostatitis: heterogeneity in diagnostic criteria and management. Retrospective multicentric analysis of 371 patients diagnosed with acute prostatitis. BMC Infectious Diseases 2008;8:12.
  2. Ulleryd P, Zackrisson B, Aus G, et al. Prostatic involvement in men with febrile urinary tract infection as measured by serum prostate-specific antigen and transrectal ultrasonography. BJU Int 1999;84:470-4.
  3. Krieger JN, Nyberg L, Nickel JC. NIH consensus definition and classification. JAMA 1999;282:236-37.
  4. Harper M, Fowlis. Management of urinary tract infections in men. Trends in Urology Gynaecology & Sexual Health. January/February 2007.
  5. Lee DS, Choe HS, Kim HY, et al. Acute bacterial prostatitis and abscess formation. BMC Urology 2016;16:38.
  6. Oliveira P, Andrade JA, Porto HC, et al. Diagnosis and treatment of prostatic abscess. International Braz J Urol 2003;29: 30-34.
  7. Lipsky BA, Byren I, Hoey CT. Treatment of bacterial prostatitis. Clin Infect Dis 2010; 50:1641-52.


Disclosures: The listed questions and answers are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Catalyst, Harvard University, its affiliate academic healthcare centers, or its contributors. Although every effort has been made to provide accurate information, the author is far from being perfect. The reader is urged to verify the content of the material with other sources as deemed appropriate and exercise clinical judgment in the interpretation and application of the information provided herein. No responsibility for an adverse outcome or guarantees for a favorable clinical result is assumed by the author. Thank you!

Should male patients with suspected urinary tract infection routinely undergo a prostate exam?

Is intermittent urethral catheterization preferred over continuous indwelling catheters for short-term management of urinary retention in my hospitalized patient?

For continuous urethral catheterization (CUC), the estimated daily risk of acquisition of bacteriuria is 3% to 8%1-3.  For intermittent urethral catheterization (IUC), the incidence of bacteriuria is 1% to 3% per insertion4. The Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends that IUC should be considered as an alternative to short-term CUC to reduce catheter-associated bacteriuria or UTI based on “poor evidence”  (Category C) and, as relates to symptomatic UTIs, without properly designed randomized-controlled studies2.  

A Cochrane systematic review of CUC vs IUC in hospitalized patients failed to find any significant differences between the 2 interventions as relates to the rates of symptomatic UTI and asymptomatic bacteriuria in hospitalized patients requiring short-term catheterization5.   Of interest, nearly 3 times as many people developed acute urinary retention with IUC compared to CUC in this study (16% vs 45%, respectively, RR 0.45, 95% CI 0.22-0.91).  

In short, despite its theoretical advantage in reducing the risk of UTIs due to lack of a constant presence of a catheter, solid data to support preference of IUC over CUC in short-term management of urinary retention in hospitalized patients is still lacking.

Bonus pearl: Did you know that compared to indwelling urinary catheters, suprapubic catheters are associated with lower incidence of asymptomatic bacteriuria, but not necessarily symptomatic UTIs? 5

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  1. Lo, Nicolle LE, Coffin SE, et al. Strategies to prevent catheter-associated urinary tract infections in acute care hospitals: 2014 update. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2014;35:464-78.
  2. Hooton TM, Bradley SF, Cardenas DD, et al. Diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of catheter-associated urinary tract infection in adults: 2009 International Clinical Practice Guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2010;50:625-663.
  3. Kunin CM, McCormack RC. Prevention of catheter-induced urinary-tract infections by sterile closed drainage. N Engl J Med 1966;274:1155-61.
  4. Saint S, Lipsky BA. Preventing catheter-related bacteriuria: Should we? Can we? How? Arch Intern Med 1999;159:800-808.
  5. Kidd EA, Stewart F, Kassis NC, et al. Urethral (indwelling or intermittent) or suprapubic routes for short-term catheterization in hospitalized adults (review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015; Issue 12. Art No. :CD004203.





Is intermittent urethral catheterization preferred over continuous indwelling catheters for short-term management of urinary retention in my hospitalized patient?