Extracolonic manifestations of Clostridium difficile infections: Presentation of 2 cases and review of the literature

Avrum Jacobs, Kathryn Barnard, Rhonda Fishel, Jeremy D. Gradon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

121 Scopus citations


Clostridium difficile is most commonly associated with colonic infection. It may, however, also cause disease in a variety of other organ systems. Small bowel involvement is often associated with previous surgical procedures on the small intestine and is associated with a significant mortality rate (4 of 7 patients). When associated with bacteremia, the infection is, as expected, frequently polymicrobial in association with usual colonic flora. The mortality rate among patients with C. difficile bacteremia is 2 of 10 reported patients. Visceral abscess formation involves mainly the spleen, with 1 reported case of pancreatic abscess formation. Frequently these abscesses are only recognized weeks to months after the onset of diarrhea or other colonic symptoms. C. difficile-related reactive arthritis is frequently poly-articular in nature and is not related to the patient's underlying HLA-B27 status. Fever is not universally present. The most commonly involved joints are the knee and wrist (involved in 18 of 36 cases). Reactive arthritis begins an average of 11.3 days after the onset of diarrhea and is a prolonged illness, taking an average of 68 days to resolve. Other entities, such as cellulitis, necrotizing fasciitis, osteomyelitis, and prosthetic device infections, can also occur. Localized skin and bone infections frequently follow traumatic injury, implying the implantation of either environmental or the patient's own C. difficile spores with the subsequent development of clinical infection. It is noteworthy that except for cases involving the small intestine and reactive arthritis, most of the cases of extracolonic C. difficile disease do not appear to be strongly related to previous antibiotic exposure. The reason for this is unclear. We hope that clinicians will become more aware of these extracolonic manifestations of infection, so that they may be recognized and treated promptly and appropriately. Such early diagnosis may also serve to prevent extensive and perhaps unnecessary patient evaluations, thus improving resource utilization and shortening length of hospital stay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-101
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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