Patient Care

Postoperative Clostridium Difficile Infection Associated with Number of Antibiotics, Surgical Procedure Complexity


Clinical question: What are the factors that increase risk of Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in postoperative patients?

Background: CDI has become an important infectious etiology for morbidity, lengthy and costly hospital admissions, and mortality. This study focused on the risks for postoperative patients to be infected with C. diff. Awareness of the risk factors for CDI allows for processes to be implemented that can decrease the rate of infection.

Study design: Retrospective, observational study.

Setting: Multiple Veterans Health Administration surgery programs.

Synopsis: The study investigated 468,386 surgical procedures in 134 surgical programs in 12 subspecialties over a four-year period. Overall, the postoperative CDI rate was 0.4% per year. Rates were higher in emergency or complex procedures, older patients, patients with longer preoperative hospital stays, and those who received three or more classes of antibiotics. CDI in postoperative patients was associated with five times higher risk of mortality, a 12 times higher risk of morbidity, and longer hospital stays (17.9 versus 3.6 days) compared with those without CDI. Further studies with a larger population size will confirm the findings of this study.

The study was conducted on middle-aged to elderly male veterans, and it can only be assumed that these results will translate to other populations. Nevertheless, CDI can lead to significant morbidity and mortality, and the study reinforces the importance of infection control and prevention to reduce CDI incidence and disease severity.

Bottom line: Postoperative CDI is significantly associated with the number of postoperative antibiotics, surgical procedure complexity, preoperative length of stay, and patient comorbidities.

Citation: Li X, Wilson M, Nylander W, Smith T, Lynn M, Gunnar W. Analysis of morbidity and mortality outcomes in postoperative Clostridium difficile infection in the Veterans Health Administration. JAMA Surg. 2015;25:1-9.

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