Post-Op Bacterial Infection Ups Complications Risk

Post-Op Bacterial Infection Ups Complications Risk

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) — People recuperating from surgery are much more likely to die or develop complications if they become infected with a dangerous diarrhea-causing bacteria, a new study suggests.

Patients at VA hospitals who contracted Clostridium difficilefollowing surgery were five times more likely to die and 12 times more likely to suffer a complication of the heart, lung, kidneys or nervous system, according to findings published online Nov. 25 in the journal JAMA Surgery.

C. difficile infection is a big hit to take for people who are already behind the eight-ball,” said Dr. Brian Zuckerbraun, a surgeon at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System who co-wrote an accompanying editorial. “It’s just a big insult to their system, when they are vulnerable.”

C. difficile is a tough and opportunistic bacteria that can invade the intestines of people whose gut bacteria have been wiped out by heavy doses of antibiotics, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Patients with C. difficile suffer from severe diarrhea, fever, nausea and abdominal pain, the NIH says.

To see how C. difficile might affect people recovering from surgery, researchers led by Xinli Li, of the National Surgery Office of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), reviewed data from more than 468,000 surgical procedures performed over four years through the VHA.

Slightly more than 1,800 of those patients developed a C. difficile infection within 30 days of surgery, amounting to a rate of 0.4 percent per year, the authors said.

The data also showed that 86 percent of surgical patients with a C. difficile infection wound up suffering from one or more complications, compared with just over 7 percent of people who had a healthy recovery from surgery.

In addition, about 5 percent of surgical patients with C. difficile died within 30 days of their operation, compared with 1 percent of those not infected by the bacteria.

Patients with C. difficile infection also remain in the hospital much longer, about 18 days compared to four days for those without the infection, the investigators found.

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