Routine Urine Testing at the Spinal Cord Injury Annual Evaluation Leads to Unnecessary Antibiotic Use: A Pilot Study and Future Directions

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Objectives To measure the prevalence of asymptomatic bacteriuria (ASB) in persons with spinal cord injury (SCI) at the time of their annual examination and to examine the effect on urine testing during the annual examination on subsequent antibiotic use. Design Retrospective cohort study. Setting A major SCI center. Participants Veterans (N=393) with SCI seen for an outpatient annual evaluation in 2012 or 2013. Interventions Not applicable. Main Outcome Measures Antibiotic use for bacteriuria within 7 days of the annual evaluation encounter. Results There were 327 clinic visits that met inclusion criteria; of these 327 veterans, 249 had a urine culture performed. A total of 171 urine cultures (69%) were positive for bacteria, of which 22 (13%) represented urinary tract infection (UTI) cases and 149 (87%) were ASB cases. More than a third of the ASB cases (n=53 [36%]) were treated with antibiotics. None of the 78 visits with negative urine cultures received antibiotics to treat the UTI; thus, a positive urine culture alone was associated with antibiotic use (P < .01). Factors predicting antibiotic use were higher age, nitrite presence on urinalysis, and urease-producing organism on culture media. When comparing bladder management strategies, indwelling catheterization was found to be associated with higher levels of pyuria and hematuria than did spontaneous voiding or intermittent catheterization (P < .01). Conclusions Two-thirds of the urine cultures of persons with SCI presenting for their annual examination were positive. Most of the positive cultures represented ASB cases, and more than a third of these were treated with antibiotics. A better understanding of the mandate for urine testing at the annual examination and the outcomes of this practice is an important first step in developing antibiotic stewardship for UTI in persons with SCI.