Background: Colitis caused by Clostridium difficile is receiving increased attention as a nosocomial hospital-acquired infection.
Methods: To determine the incidence of C difficile colitis in our facility and the relative proportion of patients dying from the colitis or requiring colectomy for it, we retrospectively reviewed 201 cases of colitis caused by C difficile from 1984 to 1994.
Results: The incidence of C difficile colitis appears to be sharply increasing and is associated with the use of cephalosporins. Among patients who subsequently developed C difficile colitis, the most frequent indication for antibiotic use was perioperative prophylaxis; surgical patients comprised 55% of the total cases. Surgical intervention was required for 5% of patients with C difficile colitis, with an operative mortality of 30%. The overall mortality was 3.5% and was associated with a delay in diagnosis. The only discriminative factor between patients who died and those who survived was length of time from symptoms to treatment--5.43 days for survivors versus 10.7 days for those who died (P < 0.05).
Conclusions: Most cases of C difficile colitis seen by surgeons have followed the use of perioperative prophylactic antibiotics. Strict guidelines for using perioperative antibiotics should be observed. Prompt recognition of C difficile colitis and aggressive therapy for it are essential for a favorable outcome.