Incontinence Pad Use in Patients Admitted to Medical Wards: An Italian Multicenter Prospective Cohort Study

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The purpose of the study was to evaluate the incidence of incontinence pad use among patients admitted to medical wards, the reasons why nurses decide to use an incontinence pad, the extent to which the use of pads is avoidable, and the outcome of inappropriate pad use after discharge from the hospital.


A prospective cohort study was conducted; patients admitted to medical wards were observed during hospitalization and a 7-day follow-up period after discharge.

Subjects and Setting

The study was conducted in 2 acute-care units in Northern Italy. All new patients admitted to the units were recruited.


At the time of admission to the hospital, in addition to the 120 patients who already used incontinence pads, there was a 34% incidence of new cases (98/286). The most frequent reason why nurses decided to use this aid was incontinence caused by space-time disorientation, followed by limited mobility, incontinence, patient request, nursing shortage, and involuntary urine leakage not perceived by patient. Seventy patients out of 208 used incontinence pads unnecessarily for a total of 544 days.


Decisions about the use of the incontinence pads are not always consistent with research-based or literature-based suggestions. Nurses should develop clinical guidelines or protocols for the appropriate use of incontinence pads.

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