Suprapubic Compared With Transurethral Bladder Catheterization for Gynecologic Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Suprapubic catheterization is commonly used for postoperative bladder drainage after gynecologic procedures. However, recent studies have suggested an increased rate of complications compared with urethral catheterization. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing suprapubic catheterization and urethral catheterization in gynecologic populations.


PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, Google Scholar, and trial registries were searched from 1966 to March 2012 for eligible randomized controlled trials comparing postoperative suprapubic catheterization and urethral catheterization in gynecologic patients. We used these search terms: “catheter,” “supra(-)pubic catheter,” “urinary catheter,” “gyn(a)ecological,” “catheterization techniques gyn(a)ecological surgery,” “transurethral catheter,” and “bladder drainage.” No language restrictions were applied.


The primary outcome was urinary tract infection. Secondary outcomes were the need for recatheterization, duration of catheterization, catheter-related complications, and duration of hospital stay. Pooled effect size estimates were calculated using the random effects model from DerSimonian and Laird.


In total, 12 eligible randomized controlled trials were included in the analysis (N=1,300 patients). Suprapubic catheterization was associated with a significant reduction in postoperative urinary tract infections (20% compared with 31%, pooled odds ratio [OR] 0.31, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.185–0.512, P<.01) but an increased risk of complications (29% compared with 11%, pooled OR 4.14, 95% CI 1.327–12.9, P=.01). Complications were mostly related to catheter tube malfunction with no visceral injuries reported. No differences in the rate of recatheterization or hospital stay were demonstrated. Robust patient satisfaction and cost-effectiveness data are lacking.


Based on the best available evidence, no route for bladder drainage in gynecologic patients is clearly superior. The reduced rate of infective morbidity with suprapubic catheterization is offset by a higher rate of catheter-related complications and crucially does not translate into reduced hospital stay. As yet, there are insufficient data to determine which route is most appropriate for catheterization; therefore, cost and patient-specific factors should be paramount in the decision. Minimally invasive surgery may alter the requirement for prolonged postoperative catheterization.

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