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Risk Factors that Predict Recurrent Clostridium difficile Infections in Surgical Patients

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Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) infection (CDI) is a serious problem mostly studied during patients’ index infections. The aim of this study is to define the incidence of primary and recurrent postoperative (postop) CDI in a single institution’s entire surgical population and to identify risk factors that influence disease recurrence. Using electronic medical records from 2002 to 2012, charts were reviewed from all patients with laboratory-proven (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay or polymerase chain reaction methods) C. difficile-positive stool samples. Index postop CDI was defined as a positive C. difficile assay (CDA) within 30 days of surgery and recurrence was defined as a positive CDA within 30 days of any surgery in a patient with a previously documented positive CDA. Patient demographics, surgical diagnoses, and laboratory data were recorded. Approximately 342,000 surgeries were performed in the study period with a 0.6 per cent (2188 patients) incidence of index postop CDI. Patients undergoing musculoskeletal surgery had the highest recurrent CDI rate [odds ratio (OR) 3.09 (1.47‐6.49), P = 0.003]. Use of any steroid (OR 2.45 [1.43‐4.20], P = 0.002) or other immunosuppressant (OR 2.64 [1.09‐6.38], P = 0.011) within six months of surgery was associated with an increased risk of the development of a recurrent CDI. Across surgical specialties at our institution, postop index CDI is low and patients have about a 5-fold increased risk for developing recurrent CDI. Patients undergoing musculoskeletal surgery are at greater risk for CDI recurrence and younger age, use of steroids and immune modulators, and surgery by organ system are independent risk factors for a recurrent CDI.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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