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Dis Colon Rectum. 1994 Aug;37(8):837-45.

Patterns and prognosis of Clostridium difficile colitis.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, St. Louis University School of Medicine, Missouri.


The incidence of Clostridium difficile colitis has increased during recent years, presumably because of liberal use of broad-spectrum antibiotic regimens.


A retrospective review to determine patterns of C. difficile colitis development, morbidity, and treatment results was undertaken. During an 18-month period, 90 patients were diagnosed with C. difficile colitis by fecal toxin assays. Patient demographics, symptoms, previously administered antibiotic regimens, diagnostic evaluations, treatment modalities, morbidity, and mortality were identified, entered into a computer data base, and analyzed.


The mean age was 58 years; males outnumbered females 1.2:1. Among 90 patients, 41 (46 percent) developed C. difficile colitis after surgical procedures. Eighty (89 percent) patients received antibiotic therapy before developing C. difficile colitis: 35 (44 percent) for documented infections and 45 (56 percent) as empiric or prophylactic therapy. Cephalosporins, penicillins, quinolones, vancomycin, and aminoglycosides were the most frequently administered antibiotic classes prior to C. difficile colitis diagnosis. Ten (11 percent) patients developed C. difficile colitis without previous antibiotic therapy. Eighty-two (91 percent) patients presented with diarrhea, while eight (9 percent) had fever only. Primary C. difficile colitis treatment for both groups included vancomycin (66 percent), metronidazole (24 percent), or both drugs (10 percent). Ten (11 percent) patients received no treatment. No patient developed toxic colitis or megacolon. Colonoscopy was performed in four (4 percent) patients; pseudomembranes were identified in one (25 percent) patient. There was one C. difficile colitis recurrence after treatment, but no C. difficile colitis-associated morbidity. Mortality (14 patients, 16 percent) was not related to C. difficile colitis, but to underlying illness. No difference in patient age, sex, previous antibiotic administration, serum albumin, total days hospitalized, duration of C. difficile colitis antibiotic therapy, C. difficile colitis treatment regimens, or mortality was identified between nonsurgical and surgical patients. The white blood cell count was significantly lower in the nonsurgical group however. Clostridium difficile colitis developed most commonly after antibiotic administration with symptoms of diarrhea, but did occur without previous antibiotic administration or diarrhea.


Despite the clinical setting, C. difficile colitis had no associated morbidity and treatment was highly effective. Mortality was related to underlying medical illness, not C. difficile colitis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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