Fulminant Clostridium Difficile colitis after ileostomy reversal: Case Report and Review of Literature

Author(s): Henry Liao, Steve Lau, Henry Drysdale, Glenn Guest

Introduction: Clostridium Difficile infection (CDI) following restoration of intestinal continuity is uncommon and may progress to fulminant colitis. Fulminant CDI is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. In an unwell patient without clear evidence of an anastomotic leak, surgeons should be aware of the possibility of CDI and institute appropriate management.

Presentation of Case: We report the case of a 71- year-old man, who presented for an elective loop ileostomy reversal after an ultra-low anterior resection for a low rectal cancer eight months prior. The patient deteriorated clinically on post-operative day (POD) 4 and by POD 5 was in septic shock with multi-organ failure. A relook laparotomy confirmed no anastomotic leak and a flexible sigmoidoscopy revealed typical appearance of pseudomembranous colitis. The patient continued to deteriorate in the intensive care unit despite oral and rectal Vancomycin. An abdominal computed tomography (CT)1 on POD 9 demonstrated severe pancolitis and enteritis necessitating surgical intervention. He underwent an emergency subtotal colectomy with an end ileostomy after failing medical management.

Discussion: Many factors have been shown to increase the incidence of Clostridium difficile colonization in the colon including recent hospitalization, antibiotic use, and length of defunctioning beyond six months. The presence of risk factors associated with an increase in CDI such as proton pump inhibitor use, steroid use or immunosuppression and advanced age may allow surgeons to predict high risk patients.

Conclusion: Although rare, fulminant CDI following reversal of ileostomy is a potentially fatal condition. Surgeons should be aware of the risk factors predisposing patients to CDI particularly in a patient with an acute abdomen without clear evidence of an anastomotic leak.

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