Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A new discovery by researchers could drastically cut down on the cost of unnecessary tests for urinary tract infections, a study says.
A change in the traditional system used by doctors can cut unnecessary bacterial culture tests to detect UTI by 50 percent, according to research published Thursday in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.
"Over-testing for UTIs drives up health-care costs and leads to unnecessary antibiotic use which spreads antibiotic resistance," senior author and infectious diseases specialist David K. Warren, a researcher at Washington University School of Medicine and study author, said in a news release.
UTIs are brought on by bacteria that can lead to infection in the bladder. If left untreated, a UTI can cause burning and pain during urination.
Traditionally, doctors would give patients bacteria culture tests, even without UTI symptoms.
"Ordering tests when the patient needs them is a good thing. But ordering tests when it's not indicated wastes resources and can subject patients to unnecessary treatment. We were able to reduce the number of tests ordered substantially without diminishing the quality of care at all, and at a substantial cost savings," Warren said.
The new recommendations call for physicians to use a urine dipstick test, which can pick up inflammatory cells that indicate an infection that signals UTI.
But giving a test that detects bacteria and not an infection could lead a doctor to needlessly prescribe antibiotics to a patient.
UTIs, however, are serious and can lead to kidney infections.
"Doctors get stuck with a result they don't know how to interpret and often prescribe antibiotics because that seems like the safest path to take," said Warren, who is also medical director for infection prevention at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
"Everyone always worries that by ordering fewer urine cultures we might miss some UTIs, but we showed that we did not," Warren said.