Unusual manifestations of Clostridium difficile infection

Alpin D Malkan, Jose M Pimiento, Stephen P Maloney, J Alexander Palesty, Stephen J Scholand
Surgical Infections 2010, 11 (3): 333-7

BACKGROUND: Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is an increasing nosocomial problem. New, more-virulent strains of C. difficile have spread across North America and Europe. Health care institutions now face a greater incidence of disease, often with greater severity. A need for surgical management for control of infection is on the increase. The clinical appearance of CDI is changed.

METHODS: We report four unusual and severe cases of CDI in surgical patients with a review of the relevant literature.

RESULTS: One patient developed CDI and required a colectomy for a perforated viscus. He developed C. difficile ileitis 12 days later that responded to medical therapy. Another patient who underwent a colectomy for infrarenal aortic occlusion, later in his hospital course, developed C. difficile ileitis and died. The third patient was hospitalized for several months for hypertension and associated morbidities. Eventually he developed severe abdominal pain and was found to have a small bowel mural abscess that grew C. difficile on culture. A fourth patient, taking long-term antibiotics for a surgical site infection of the knee, developed unexplained leukocytosis without diarrhea. Colonoscopy revealed pseudomembranous colitis that advanced to toxic megacolon. She required a colectomy and ultimately died from the disease.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients are at high risk from CDI in this modern era. Disease manifestations may differ from the typical presentation. A heightened awareness for diagnosing this dangerous, evolving disease is paramount.

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