Rehabilitation patients with bladder dysfunction will be the focus of a recently funded research project at the University of Utah Hospital.

The study is funded by a two-year $200,000 rehabilitation nursing grant to the hospital's Department of Nursing Practice and the U. College of Nursing from the National Center for Nursing Research at the National Institutes of Health. Principal investigators are Colleen Dille, rehabilitation clinical nurse specialist, and Karin Kirchhoff, director of nursing research for the hospital's nursing practice department.Rehabilitation patients with bladder dysfunction often require drainage bags for the collection of urine. Dille said these bags may be a possible reservoir for bacteria that may cause urinary tract infections.

Manufacturers recommend the bags be replaced daily, at considerable expense to the patient, Dille said. However, a previous study showed that bags could be used safely for one week when cleaned daily with dilute bleach.

The new study, "Decontamination of Urinary Drainage Bags with Bleach," will determine whether, by the same cleaning process, the wearing time of the bags can be extended from one week to four weeks without increased risk of infection.

If the experiment is successful, the savings in equipment costs could be as much as $600 per year per patient, Dille said. Stroke and spinal-cord-injury patients and others suffering from neurologically caused bladder dysfunction will be among those who would benefit from such findings.

Some 200 patients on the rehabilitation unit will be asked to participate in the study. All patients' drainage bags will decontaminated daily with dilute bleach. Half the patients will have the bags replaced weekly, while the other half will have bags replaced every four weeks.