URINARY TRACT INFECTION
Urinary tract infection (UTI) probably affects about one-half of all people during their lifetimes.
By some estimates, UTI accounts for more than 10 million office visits and 1 million
hospitalizations each year in the United States at a total cost exceeding 1 billion dollars. Up to
10% of UTIs result in serious complications such as gram-negative sepsis or chronic
pyelonephritis with loss of renal function.
Understanding some key definitions and their limitations facilitates a knowledgeable approach to
Urinary tract infection means the finding of bacteria (or other microorganisms, such as
yeasts) in bladder urine with or without clinical symptoms and with or without renal
disease. Thus “UTI” refers to a diverse group conditions.
Complicated UTI implies the presence of predisposing anatomic, functional, or metabolic
abnormalities. Uncomplicated UTI is encountered most frequently in healthy, young,
non-pregnant women (some authorities hold that UTI in all other patient groups is by
definition complicated). Complicated UTI is more difficult to treat and usually requires
more aggressive evaluation and follow-up. However, the definition of “complicated” is
often imprecise. Labeling patients as having “complicated” TI sometimes leads to
Significant bacteriuria traditionally refers to the laboratory finding of >105 colony-
forming units (CFU) of bacteria per mL of urine. Urine cultures from patients with
symptomatic UTI usually show >105 CFU/mL of urine, whereas asymptomatic patients
whose cultures have been contaminated usually show < 103 CFU/mL of urine.
Limitations of the “>105 per mL rule” have become increasingly apparent. In brief (and
as will be discussed more fully below), fewer than 105 CFU/mL often assume
significance when the pre-test probability of UTI is high because of the clinical setting.
These cases are sometimes called low colony-count UTI. Stated differently, 104 or even
fewer bacteria per mL of urine represent “significant bacteriuria” when there is strong
clinical evidence of UTI.
Asymptomatic bacteriuria denotes significant bacteriuria (> 105 CFU/mL of urine)
without clinical symptoms or other abnormal findings.
Lower urinary tract infection refers to infection at or below the level of the bladder. In
clinical practice, “lower UTI” is often used synonymously with “cystitis,” a syndrome
characterized by dysuria, frequency, urgency, and variable suprapubic tenderness.
Because one cannot say with certainty that infection involves mainly or exclusively the
urinary bladder, some authorities suggest that “cystitis” should be abandoned. “Lower
UTI” also encompasses prostatitis, urethritis, and infection of the periurethral glands.
Upper urinary tract infection refers to infection of the urinary tract above the level of the
bladder; that is, the ureters, kidneys, and peri-renal tissues. This term is used mainly in
reference to pyelonephritis. “Upper UTI” also encompasses intrarenal abscess (“renal
carbuncle”) and perinephric abscess. Renal papillary necrosis refers to infarction of
the papillae (sometimes with sloughing into the ureters), which can be caused by
pyelonephritis or analgesic abuse and which often occurs in the setting of diabetes
mellitus, sickle cell disease, or ureteral obstruction.
Acute bacterial pyelonephritis denotes a clinical syndrome of fever, flank pain, and
tenderness, often with constitutional symptoms, leukocytosis, leukocyte casts in the urine,
and bacteriuria with or without signs of concomitant inflammation in the bladder. Newer
imaging techniques such as CT scanning allow more precise diagnosis than was possible
in the past, but are unnecessary in most cases.
Chronic bacterial pyelonephritis indicates long-standing infection with active bacterial
growth in the kidney, or the presence of residual lesions in the kidney caused by such
infection in the past. Chronic interstitial nephritis is a term now used to indicate
histologic findings resembling chronic bacterial pyelonephritis but in which evidence for
an etiologic role for bacterial infection is lacking. Drugs (not only prescription drugs but
also non-prescription drugs as in analgesic nephropathy) are common causes of chronic
Obstructive uropathy refers to obstruction of urine flow at any level.
Ascending UTI implies that bacteria (or other microorganisms) colonize the periurethral
tissues and then spread upwards into the bladder and, in some cases, the kidneys.
Descending (hematogenous) UTI implies that microorganisms, having gained access to
the bloodstream from another source, infect the kidneys and then other parts of the
urinary tract secondarily.
Urethral syndrome is a term coined for the presence of classic symptoms of urinary tract
infection: dysuria (burning, pain, stinging, or other unpleasant sensations on urination),
urgency, and frequency, without significant bacteriuria. Some of these cases may be due
to bacterial infection of the urethra; others are due to non-bacterial agents or possibly
have non-infectious etiologies.
Prostatitis, cystitis, urethritis, epididymitis, and perinephritis imply inflammation (usually
due to infection) of the prostate, bladder, urethra, epididymides, and peri-renal spaces,
Pyuria indicates the presence of pus (white blood cells; leukocytes) in the urine, which
may or may not be caused by urinary tract infection. The preferred method for
quantitative evaluation of pyuria is to enumerate the number of WBC per mL of unspun
urine using a counting chamber. In office practice, the leukocyte esterase dipstick test is
often used as a simple method for determining the presence or absence of pyuria.
Urosepsis denotes UTI as the basis for the sepsis syndrome. Blood cultures are often (but
not always) positive for the same microorganism found in urine culture.
Epidemiology of clinically-apparent UTI (upper panel) and asymptomatic bacteriuria (lower
panel) according to age and sex.
OVERVIEW OF THE EPIDEMIOLOGY AND ETIOLOGY UTI IN CLINICAL PRACTICE
UTI affects males mainly during infancy and after the fifth decade of life. The higher incidence
of UTI in male infants compared to female infants is attributed to males having more congenital
abnormalities. Thereafter, symptomatic and asymptomatic UTI becomes mainly a disease of
females until the sixth decade. During the reproductive years, women have a 50-fold increased
incidence of UTI compared to males. After the fifth decade, the sex distribution of UTI is
approximately equal between the sexes as both sexes develop problems with voiding and men
develop prostatism (figure 1). In the past all UTIs in males have been considered “complicated.”
It is now thought that some males without predisposing anatomic or functional abnormalities
develop UTI as a result of sexual activity.
Over 90% of UTIs are caused by a single microorganism. Most uncomplicated UTIs are caused
by E. coli, which frequently colonizes the periurethral tissues. Staphylococcus saprophyticus,
which is one of the coagulase-negative staphylococci, accounts for 10% to 15% of
uncomplicated UTI, mainly during the summer months. Complicated UTI is caused by a more
diverse group of microorganisms, which, compared to E. coli, are more difficult-to-treat.
The ease of obtaining urine specimens from most patients and the availability of dipsticks,
microscopes, and facilities for culture in most clinics make the laboratory diagnosis of urinary
tract infection a relatively straightforward matter. Key findings pointing toward UTI include
pyuria (which can, however, have other causes), hematuria (a finding helpful mainly in
excluding alternative diagnoses such as urethritis and vaginitis), and significant bacteriuria (as
defined above, again with the caveat that < 105 bacteria per mL can sometimes be significant).
Recent studies have focused on the extent to which dipsticks can replace traditional microscopy
and urine culture for patients with uncomplicated UTI. Patients with complicated UTI, however,
deserve cultures because therapy tends to be more prolonged and difficult.
Obtaining urine specimens
Especially in women, the bacterial flora of the distal urethra, vagina, and perineum often
contaminates urine cultures. Specimens should be collected carefully and processed or
refrigerated promptly. Specimens should not be allowed to sit out on counter tops, since aerobic
bacteria double about every 20 minutes at room temperature, causing false-positive results on
microscopy, dipstick urinalysis, and culture. Clean-catch midstream urine specimens usually
suffice for diagnosis of UTI in older children, non-menstruating women, and men. Catheterized
specimens are indicated in certain situations, such as patients who are unable to provide clean-
catch specimens because of urologic or neurologic problems including impaired consciousness.
Suprapubic aspiration of the urinary bladder can be done safely, provided the bladder is
distended, but is seldom used in today's practice.
Gross inspection of urine
Although the days are long past when clinicians determined urine to be “good” or “evil” based
on gross inspection, this simple procedure remains valuable. Urine can be cloudy because of the
presence of white blood cells (>200 per mL), red blood cells (> 500 per mL), bacteria ( > 106 per
mL), fat, chyle, or sediment such as crystals. Crystals are more prominent in alkaline specimens.
The urine of patients with clinical UTI is typically cloudy, but cloudy urine is not synonymous
with UTI. The finding of grossly clear urine has a 91% to 99% negative predictive value for UTI.
An important caveat is that urine can be clear (and urinalysis entirely normal) in patients with
perinephric abscess or obstructed ureter.
Dipstick analysis of urine
There is growing enthusiasm for the use of rapid dipstick techniques as a supplement to or
substitute for traditional methods of diagnosis based on microscopy and culture. Chemical
reagents on separate test pads of the dipstick evaluate different properties of urine, such as pH,
glucose and protein content, and the presence or absence of white blood cells (pyuria), red blood
cells (hematuria), and significant bacteriuria. The procedure is to dip the stick into fresh,
uncentrifuged urine, covering all of the test pads. The strip is then withdrawn immediately along
the edge of the container in such a way as to remove any excess urine. It should be held
horizontally before being read, in order to prevent mixing of the reagents in adjacent pads.
Storage and use of dipsticks should be according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
The leukocyte esterase test is used to screen for white blood cells in urine. The dipstick should be
read at 1 minute. Some experts suggest that it be read again at 5 minutes to increase the
sensitivity of the test, which detects the presence of the enzyme leukocyte esterase contained in
white blood cells. This test has a reported 75% to 96% sensitivity and a 94% to 98% specificity
for detecting pyuria. False-positive tests are usually caused by contamination, often by vaginal
secretions. False-negative specimens can be caused by hypertonic urine (as determined by high
specific gravity), glycosuria, and urobilinogen. Non-infectious causes of pyuria (sterile pyuria)
are discussed below.
The nitrite test is used to screen for significant bacteriuria. It is based on two observations: (1)
normal urine contains nitrates but not nitrites; and (2) about 90% of bacterial species causing
UTI can convert urinary nitrates to nitrites. The nitrite test has a 92% to 100% sensitivity for UTI
but only a 35% to 85% specificity. It is most useful for detecting > 105 CFU/mL of aerobic
gram-negative rods. The nitrite test is especially useful in patients with indwelling urinary
catheters to determine whether or not they are infected. In children, the sensitivity of the nitrite
test is high (up to 98%) but specificity is lower (29% to 44%) than in adults. False-positive tests
can result from substances that cause red urine such as the ingestion of beets in susceptible
subjects or the bladder analgesic phenazopyridine. False-negative nitrite tests can occur in “low-
count” UTI (> 105 CFU of bacteria per mL of urine), infections caused by bacteria that do not
produce nitrites (such as enterococci), short bladder dwell time, dilute urine specimens, or acid
Microscopic examination of urine
Although some authorities hold that dipstick analysis of urine is highly reliable and that
microscopic examination changes the management in fewer than 10% of cases, microscopy of
both “unspun” and “spun” samples can be extremely rewarding.
Examination of “unspun” (uncentrifuged) urine begins by placing a drop of urine on a glass
slide, adding a coverslip, and using the high, dry objective of the microscope. Bacteria,
recognizable as rod- or brick-shaped structures, are usually visible in patients whose urine
contains > 105 CFU of gram-negative rods per mL. Finding one or more such bacterial structures
in each high, dry magnification field carries high positive predictive value for significant
bacteriuria due to gram-negative bacilli. Round or irregularly shaped structures, on the other
hand, may represent non-specific debris or amorphous phosphates in the urine rather than gram-
positive cocci. Observing white blood cells in unspun urine indicates pyuria. These observations
on unspun urine can be made without the application of a stain, but require some experience for
interpretation. The most accurate method for detecting pyuria is to look at an unspun midstream
urine sample with a hemocytometer; 10 or more leukocytes per mL is abnormal.
Examination of “spun” (centrifuged) urine entails centrifugation at 2,000 rpm for 5 minutes,
discarding the supernatant, and placing a drop of the sediment on a glass slide. A coverslip is
added and the specimen is examined with the high, dry objective of the microscope as described
above. Alternatively, the drop of sediment is allowed to dry and is then stained with Gram's
method. These two methods can be complimentary. The presence of > 5 leukocytes per high-
powered field indicates pyuria. This finding is 90% to 95% sensitive for detecting significant
bacteriuria. However, it is not specific since sterile pyuria can be caused by other types of
infections (genitourinary tuberculosis is a classic cause; others include endocarditis, gonorrhea,
and vaginitis) and also by non-infectious conditions such as glomerulonephritis, drugs (notably
steroids and cyclophosphamide), trauma, and inflammation of structures abutting on the urinary
tract (for example, diverticulitis or appendicitis). The absence of bacteria on Gram's stain of spun
urine sediment has a high negative predictive value for significant bacteriuria.
Urine cultures add enormous specificity to the diagnosis of UTI and continue to be the gold
standard for diagnosis. Unfortunately, urine culture by commercial laboratories adds
significantly to the cost of managing this common infection. In uncomplicated UTI, and more
specifically in the absence of fever or back pain, a case can be made for empiric treatment of
UTI without culture can be based on any combination of bacteriuria, pyuria, or hematuria.
Indications for culture include (1) suspected upper UTI; (2) failure to respond to therapy; and (3)
frequent recurrences. A case can also be made for culture when dipstick analysis shows the urine
to have a highly alkaline pH, since urea-splitting bacteria (notably, Proteus mirabilis) can
foreshadow the development of large struvite calculi.
Determining the number of bacteria in urine is accomplished by plating out cultures using a
calibrated loop. A number of alternative methods have been developed such as dip-slides and
pipettes coated with culture media. The definition of “significant bacteriuria” as the finding of
>105 CFU/mL of urine (see above) derives in part from the bimodal frequency distribution of
colony counts in urine cultures. Patients with symptomatic infection usually have counts
significantly greater than 105 CFU/mL, (e.g., 106 or 107 CFU/mL) while contaminated cultures
usually show fewer than 103 CFU/mL of urine. In other words, most urine cultures will show <
103 CFU/mL or > 105 CFU/mL with relatively few cultures falling in the gray zone in between
(that is, 104 CFU/mL of urine).
Colony counts less than < 105 CFU/mL of urine can be significant in at least 4 situations:
Patients with pyelonephritis, in whom the bacteria are multiplying mainly in the kidneys
rather than in the urinary bladder, not infrequently show colony counts less than <104
Patients with symptoms of lower urinary tract infection have low colony counts, which
may indicate the “urethral syndrome” (see above).
Low colony counts can also be important in patients with prostatitis and epididymitis.
Low colony counts can be important in patients with fungal urinary tract infection.
Asymptomatic bacteriuria is a relatively common finding. It is present in up to 5% of unselected
medical outpatients, 10% of pregnant patients at term, 14% of hypertensive patients, and 20% of
patients with diabetes mellitus. Anatomic obstruction of any kind markedly increases the
incidence of asymptomatic bacteriuria. Thus, asymptomatic bacteriuria was found in 23% of
women with cystocele, 57% of patients with congenital urologic disease, 85% of patients with
hydronephrosis and nephrolithiasis, and in nearly all patients in whom an indwelling retention
catheter has been left in place with open drainage for more than 48 hours. Issues in primary care
include when and how to diagnose and treat patients with this laboratory finding.
Asymptomatic bacteriuria affects mainly women until men develop prostatism. Bacteria colonize
the vaginal introitus and then invade the urinary bladder. The mechanism of colonization by E.
coli has been studied extensively. The organism adheres to uroepithelial cells by specific binding
of bacterial surface molecules (adhesins) to complementary receptors on the host's epithelial
cells. The ability of E. coli strains to adhere to uroepithelial cells correlates with the presence of
pili or fimbriae. Many studies indicate a genetic susceptibility to colonization in some women.
Estrogens increase the likelihood of colonization, and oral contraceptives increase the risk of
bacteriuria, apparently by causing physiologic changes in the urinary tract.
Most patients remain asymptomatic. In patients without anatomic factors predisposing to UTI,
bacteriuria often resolves through normal host defense mechanisms including the mechanical
flushing of the urinary stream. Complications such as pyelonephritis and sepsis are likely to
occur in certain patient groups: (1) pregnant women; (2) patients undergoing genitourinary
surgery; and (3) patients undergoing urethral catheterization in the presence of complicating
URINARY TRACT INFECTION IN CHILDREN
During the neonatal period, UTI affects mainly boys. Thereafter, UTI during childhood mainly
affects girls. About 30% to 50% of children with UTI have vesicoureteral reflux, which can lead
to permanent renal damage. Ultrasonography and voiding cystourethrography are generally
recommended for boys who have had one episode of UTI and for pre-school girls who have
experienced two episodes. Children with frequent recurrent UTIs and those with severe
vesicoureteral reflux should be evaluated by a urologist.
UNCOMPLICATED LOWER UTI (CYSTITIS) IN NON-PREGNANT ADULT WOMEN
Acute dysuria in adult women affects millions of women in the United States each year and
usually reflects one of three conditions: acute bacterial cystitis, urethritis, or vaginitis. At the
time of the initial evaluation, it is sometimes not possible to determine whether acute cystitis is
complicated or uncomplicated. Subclinical involvement of the kidney (pyelonephritis) is present
in up to 30% to 50% of these cases.
Why some patients develop symptomatic inflammation of the bladder (acute cystitis) while
others do not (asymptomatic bacteriuria) is poorly understood. Experimentally, 99.9% of a
bladder inoculum of bacteria is promptly eliminated by voiding. Thus, establishment of infection
is the exception rather than the rule.
UTI in women is facilitated by sexual intercourse, during which the urethra often becomes intra-
vaginal and bacteria are literally massaged from the periurethral mucosa into the bladder. Daily
intercourse for one week increases the likelihood of cystitis by nine-fold. The risk is increased by
the use of a diaphragm and by spermicidal contraceptives, which increase the vaginal pH, alter
the microbial environment, and enhance the ability of E. coli to adhere to the mucosa.
E. coli causes 70% to 90% of episodes of acute cystitis in sexually active younger women.
Staphylococcus saprophyticus causes most other episodes, especially during the spring and
summer months. Enterococci and various gram-negative rods explain most of the remainder of
ACUTE UPPER UTI (PYELONEPHRITIS) IN ADULT WOMEN
Acute pyelonephritis is a relatively common problem in adult women, accounting by some
estimates for at least 250,000 hospitalizations per year. Many of these patients can be managed
as outpatients, sometimes after brief observation in an acute-care facility.
It is generally assumed that bacteria ascend from the bladder to the renal pelvis by way of the
ureters. Some researchers suggest that bacteria first enter the bloodstream from the renal pelvis
through pyelovenous communications and then recirculate to the kidney. Be that as it may, it is
easiest to consider most cases of pyelonephritis to be the result of quot;ascending UTIquot; as defined
above. The renal medulla has been called “an immunologic desert,” since host defenses are
rendered relatively helpless by the low pH and high osmolality. Multiplying bacteria can enter
the bloodstream, causing the sepsis syndrome.
Pyelonephritis in patients with structurally-normal urinary tracts is usually caused by so-called
uropathogenic strains of E. coli. Other aerobic gram-negative rods sometimes cause acute
pyelonephritis especially in patients with complicated urologic histories. S. saprophyticus,
although a common cause of acute cystitis, seldom causes pyelonephritis. Whether atypical
microorganisms such as Ureaplasma urealyticum and Mycoplasma hominis cause acute
uncomplicated pyelonephritis is unclear.
Acute pyelonephritis occurs both with and without symptoms of lower UTI, such as frequency,
urgency, and dysuria. The hallmark symptoms are fever and flank pain. However, nausea and
generalized abdominal pain often dominate the clinical picture. Acute disease of the
gastrointestinal tract (such as acute appendicitis, cholecystitis, or pancreatitis) and pelvis (pelvic
inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy) must be considered in the differential diagnosis.
Physical examination should focus on the vital signs, the abdomen, and the costovertebral angle
(CVA). Careful measurement of temperature is important, since fever with UTI strongly suggests
pyelonephritis. An increased respiratory rate can indicate respiratory compensation for metabolic
acidosis. The abdomen should be examined especially for adnexal tenderness, which may
suggest that the correct diagnosis is actually pelvic inflammatory disease. CVA tenderness is the
classic physical finding in pyelonephritis.
Pyuria is nearly always present. As already mentioned, it can be absent if the site of infection is
excluded from the normal flow of urine, as is the case with complete ureteral obstruction or
perinephric abscess. Hematuria may be present but does not help differentiate pyelonephritis
from cystitis. Urine culture reveals > 105 CFU/mL in 80% to 95% of cases. Some patients, as
discussed above, have lower colony counts. Between 10% and 20% of patients will have positive
blood cultures. However, there is no evidence that patients with positive blood cultures do worse
than patients whose blood cultures are sterile, and it is therefore reasonable to limit blood
cultures to patients who require hospitalization.
Many researchers have sought ways to discern between upper and lower UTI. These include
ureteral catheterization (accurate but invasive), Fairley's bladder washout test (helpful but labor-
intensive), the antibody-coated bacteria test (now generally out of favor because of questions
about its accuracy), measurement of urinary concentrating ability, serum antibody levels, and
urinary levels of various enzymes and β2-microglobulin. To date, none of these tests or
procedures can be recommended for management of UTI in daily office practice. Patients with
UTI and any combination of fever, flank pain, or CVA tenderness should be treated
appropriately for pyelonephritis.
UTI DURING PREGNANCY
Pregnancy markedly predisposes to pyelonephritis, which can harm both the mother and the
fetus. Bacteriuria during pregnancy is associated with prematurity and low birth weight, although
a cause-and-effect relationship is unclear. Urine culture should be obtained at the first prenatal
visit. Dipstick methods are insufficiently sensitive for screening for bacteriuria in pregnancy.
Patients with asymptomatic bacteriuria should be treated with a 3-day course of antibiotics and
COMPLICATED UTI IN ADULTS
A minority of women with acute pyelonephritis experience complications that can potentially
lead to chronic pyelonephritis and renal failure. UTI in men is often complicated and is likely to
be associated with obstructive uropathy and/or prostatitis.
Complicated UTI occurs in specific clinical settings. Renal abscess can result from
hematogenous seeding of the renal cortex (most often due to S. aureus) or from ascending
infection leading to severe pyelonephritis (most often due to gram-negative rods). Perinephric
abscess usually occurs in the setting of structural or functional abnormalities of the urinary tract.
Vesicoureteral reflux, although less common than in children, sometimes occurs in adults (and
then generally in women). Struvite or infection stones result from UTI caused by urease-
producing bacteria, most often Proteus species and especially Proteus mirabilis. The urine is
typically alkaline (pH > 7). Large “staghorn” calculi that form casts of the renal pelvocalyceal
system are sometimes apparent on plain x-ray. The range of causative bacteria is much more
diverse than is the case in uncomplicated UTI. One frequently encounters aerobic gram-negative
rods such as Klebsiella, Enterobacter, Serratia, or Providencia species, enterococci, and fungi.
Complicated UTI is often polymicrobial (that is, urine culture reveals two or more species of
microorganisms). Fungal UTI presents special problems.
The term “prostatitis” encompasses a spectrum of disorders, some of which are infections and
some of which are probably not. Among these disorders, acute bacterial prostatitis is by far the
most serious but also the least common. Bacteria usually enter the prostate by reflux of urine
from the urethra into the prostatic ducts. E. coli and Proteus species are the most commonly-
isolated bacteria. Patients with acute bacterial prostatitis usually present with dramatic systemic
and local symptoms. Fever, chills, malaise, and myalgia suggest acute infection. Dysuria, pelvic
or perineal pain, and difficulty voiding suggest the site of infection. Laboratory findings include
leukocytosis and pyuria. When all of these findings are present and the diagnosis seems
straightforward, rectal examination should be avoided since it will be painful and may cause
Compared to acute bacterial prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis is more common and
presents as a more subtle illness with recurrent urinary tract infections accompanied by a large,
“boggy” prostate. A somewhat cumbersome procedure known as the four-cup test is the
cornerstone to accurate diagnosis. Gram-negative rods such as E. coli are the most common
causes. E. coli strains causing prostatitis have virulence factors similar to those that cause
pyelonephritis in women. The disease can be caused by enterococci and perhaps by
Staphylococcus saprophyticus. A few cases are polymicrobial. Evidence that Chlamydia
trachomatis causes chronic prostatitis is inconclusive.
Most men evaluated for prostatitis (>90% by some estimates) are given the diagnosis of chronic
nonbacterial prostatitis or chronic pelvic pain syndrome. These overlapping syndromes are
extremely common, poorly understood, and separated from each other mainly on the basis of
examination of the prostate and microscopic examination of prostatic secretions.
Epididymitis, which is usually but not always an infectious disease, accounts for more than
600,000 physician visits in the United States each year according to one estimate. In younger
men, it is usually caused by sexually-transmitted pathogens. In older men it is usually a bacterial
disease associated with prostatic enlargement. Epididymitis must be distinguished from testicular
torsion, a urologic emergency.
Microorganisms can enter the epididymis from the prostate by way of the ejaculatory duct.
Healthy younger men with sexually-transmitted disease usually have no predisposing factors.
The usual pathogens, in order of frequency, are Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae,
and Ureaplasma urealyticum. In older men, the usual causes are aerobic gram-negative rods such
as E. coli, other Enterobacteriacae, and Pseudomonas species, but gram-positive cocci are also
common. Tuberculous epididymitis was formerly common, and epididymitis continues to be the
most common manifestation of genitourinary tuberculosis in men. Predisposing factors to
epididymitis include acute or chronic bacterial prostatitis, neurogenic bladder, indwelling urinary
catheters, recent urologic surgery, and recent or remote prostatectomy or vasectomy.