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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Clostridium difficile Infection (CDI): Overview, Laboratory Tests and Updated Guidelines.. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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CDI: Complications of CDI

The complications of a CDI can vary and often depend on the severity of the infection, the response to treatment, and the general health of the affected individual. Complications can include the following:
  • Dehydration: Severe diarrhea can lead to a significant loss of fluids and electrolytes. Dehydration can make it very difficult for the body to function normally and can cause a decrease in the blood pressure to dangerously low levels.
  • Kidney failure: In some cases, the dehydration resulting from a CDI infection can occur very quickly causing a deterioration of kidney function and eventually leading to kidney failure.
  • Toxic megacolon: This is a rare condition whereby the colon is unable to expel gas and stool causing the colon to become greatly distended (megacolon). If left untreated, the colon can rupture and the bacteria from the colon can enter the abdominal cavity. An enlarged or ruptured colon usually requires emergency surgery and can be fatal.
  • Bowel perforation: A hole in the large intestine, termed a bowel perforation, is considered rare and can result from damage to the lining of the large intestine from a severe CDI. The condition can also result from a toxic megacolon. A perforated bowel may cause bacteria from the intestines to spill over into the abdominal cavity leading to a life-threatening infection (peritonitis).
  • Death: If not treated promptly and effectively, CDI can quickly progress to a fatal disease.