Fulminant Clostridium difficile colitis: Patterns of care and predictors of mortality

Elizabeth A. Sailhamer, Katherine Carson, Yuchiao Chang, Nikolaos Zacharias, Konstantinos Spaniolas, Malek Tabbara, Hasan B. Alam, Marc A. DeMoya, George C. Velmahos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

200 Scopus citations


Hypothesis: There exist predictors of mortality and the need for colectomy among patients with fulminant Clostridium difficile colitis. Design: Retrospective study. Setting: Academic tertiary referral center. Patients: We reviewed the records of 4796 inpatients diagnosed as having C difficile colitis from January 1, 1996, to December 31, 2007, and identified 199 (4.1%) with fulminant C difficile colitis, as defined by the need for colectomy or admission to the intensive care unit for C difficile colitis. Main Outcome Measures: Risk of inpatient mortality was determined by multivariate analysis according to clinical predictors, colectomy, and medical team. Results: The inhospital mortality rate for fulminant C difficile colitis was 34.7%. Independent predictors of mortality included the following: (1) age of 70 years or older, (2) severe leukocytosis or leukopenia (white blood cell count, ≥35 000/μL or <4000/μL) or bandemia (neutrophil bands, ≥10%), and (3) cardiorespiratory failure (intubation or vasopressors). When all 3 factors were present, the mortality rate was 57.1%; when all 3 were absent, the mortality rate was 0%. Patients who underwent colectomy had a trend toward decreased mortality rates (odds ratio, 0.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.21-1.1; P=.08). Among patients admitted primarily for fulminant C difficile colitis, care in the surgical department compared with the nonsurgical department resulted in a higher rate of operation (85.1% vs 11.2%; P<.001) and lower mortality rates (12.8% vs 39.3%; P=.001). Patients admitted directly to the surgical department had a shorter mean (SD) interval from admission to operation (0 vs 1.7 [2.8] days; P=.001). Conclusions: Despite awareness and treatment, fulminant C difficile colitis remains a highly lethal disease. Reliable predictors of mortality exist and should be used to prompt aggressive surgical intervention. Survival rates are higher in patients who were cared for by surgical vs nonsurgical departments, possibly because of more frequent and earlier operations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-439
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Fulminant Clostridium difficile colitis: Patterns of care and predictors of mortality'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this