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C. difficile lengthens hospital stays by six days

December 5, 2011

A new study published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) reports that hospital-acquired C. difficile infection increases length of stay in hospital by an average of six days.

C. difficile is the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in hospital and it is estimated that 10% of patients who become infected in hospital will die.

Researchers used The Ottawa Hospital Data Warehouse to analyze data on 136,877 admissions to The Ottawa Hospital between July 1, 2002 and March 31, 2009. A total of 1,393 patients acquired C. difficile in hospital during this time, and these patients spent 34 days in hospital compared to eight days for patients who did not have C. difficile. However, the researchers also found that patients who became infected with C. difficile tended to have more serious illnesses and would have been more likely to stay longer in hospital anyway. When the researchers controlled for the level of illness using a mathematical model, they found that hospital-acquired C. difficile increased the length of stay in hospital by six days.

“We believe our study provides the most accurate measure yet of the impact of hospital-acquired C. difficile on length of hospital stay,” says lead author Dr. Alan Forster, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, internal medicine specialist at The Ottawa Hospital and associate professor at the University of Ottawa. “C. difficile is a very serious problem for patients and for the health care system, however the good news is that tools such as The Ottawa Hospital Data Warehouse are providing us with more accurate information about C. difficile infection than we’ve ever had before, and this is helping us improve our infection-prevention efforts and also analyze their cost-effectiveness.”

In a related commentary, Dr. David Enoch, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals, United Kingdom and coauthor write that prevention and strict control measures are important for controlling the spread of the disease. “Adhering to basic evidence-based precautions can rapidly reduce the transmission of C.difficile and its associated mortality,” they state. “Surveillance is essential to assess the efficacy of interventions.”

This research was funded by The Ottawa Hospital and the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. The Ottawa Hospital Data Warehouse was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

Note: Press release adapted from the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the University’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The OHRI includes more than 1,500 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. www.ohri.ca

Media contact
Jennifer Paterson
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
613-798-5555 ext. 73325
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jpaterson@ohri.ca