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  • • Results from antibiotic therapy or alteration in colonic flora

    • Diarrhea with or without gross mucosal abnormalities

    • Caused by Clostridium difficile toxins A and B

    • Also referred to as pseudomembranous colitis

    • Clindamycin, ampicillin, cephalosporins are common inciting antibiotics

    • May progress to toxic megacolon, perforation

    • Symptoms may develop up to 6 weeks following antibiotic treatment


  • • Transmitted in hospital or closed environments

    • Epidemics noted on surgical wards

    • Can be transmitted by health care personnel, making wearing gloves and washing hands essential

    • Infection can be especially severe in immunocompromised patients

Symptoms and Signs

  • • Watery, green diarrhea, sometimes bloody

    • Crampy abdominal pain, cramping

    • Vomiting

    • Fever

    • Complications including toxic megacolon or perforation may lead to peritoneal signs

Laboratory Findings

  • • Leukocytosis

    • Positive tests for C difficile cytotoxin

    • Positive stool culture

Imaging Findings

  • Endoscopy (sigmoidoscopy)

    • -Elevated plaques


      -Erythematous, edematous mucosa


    • -Leukocytes

      -Necrotic epithelium


  • • Malignancy

    • Stricture

    • Ischemic colitis

    • Diverticulitis

Rule Out

  • • Other causes of infectious colitis

    • -Amebic


      -Cytomegalovirus (in immunocompromised patients)

  • • Sigmoidoscopy/colonoscopy with or without biopsy

    • Stool culture, C difficile cytotoxin

    • WBC count

    • History of antibiotic therapy

When to Admit

  • • Dehydration

    • Worsening abdominal pain/distention

  • • Discontinue inciting antibiotic

    • Oral vancomycin for 7-10 days

    • Oral metronidazole for 7-14 days

    • Avoid antidiarrheal medications



  • • Failure of medical management with worsening clinical course/progression to toxic megacolon, peritonitis, perforation


  • • Oral vancomycin

    • Oral metronidazole

Treatment Monitoring

  • • Serial abdominal exams

    • Serial WBC count


  • • Sepsis

    • Colonic dilatation, perforation

    • Hypovolemia/shock


  • • Recurrence after treatment is 20%


  • • Proper hand washing and protective barrier (gown and gloves) with infected patients

    • Discontinue unnecessary antibiotics


Bartlett JG, Gerding DN: Clinical recognition and diagnosis of Clostridium difficile infection. Clin Infect Dis 2008;46(Suppl 1):S12.
Dallal RM et al: Fulminant Clostridium difficile: an underappreciated and increasing cause of death and complications. Ann Surg 2002;235:363.  [PubMed: 11882758]
Hall JF, Berger D: Outcome of colectomy for Clostridium difficile colitis: a plea for early surgical management. Am J Surg 2008;196:384.  [PubMed: 18519126]
Nelson R: Antibiotic treatment for Clostridium difficile–associated diarrhea in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007;3:CD004610.

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