Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology

Original Articles

Frequent Hospital Readmissions for Clostridium difficile Infection and the Impact on Estimates of Hospital-Associated C. difficile Burden

Courtney R. Murphya1 c1, Taliser R. Averya2, Erik R. Dubberkea3 and Susan S. Huanga1

a1 Division of Infectious Diseases and Health Policy Research Institute, University of California Irvine School of Medicine, Irvine, California

a2 Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts

a3 Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri


Objective. Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is associated with hospitalization and may cause readmission following admission for any reason. We aimed to measure the incidence of readmissions due to CDI.

Design. Retrospective cohort study.

Patients. Adult inpatients in Orange County, California, who presented with new-onset CDI within 12 weeks of discharge.

Methods. We assessed mandatory 2000–2007 hospital discharge data for trends in hospital-associated CDI (HA-CDI) incidence, with and without inclusion of postdischarge CDI (PD-CDI) events resulting in rehospitalization within 12 weeks of discharge. We measured the effect of including PD-CDI events on hospital-specific CDI incidence, a mandatory reporting measure in California, and on relative hospital ranks by CDI incidence.

Results. From 2000 to 2007, countywide hospital-onset CDI (HO-CDI) incidence increased from 15 per 10,000 to 22 per 10,000 admissions. When including PD-CDI events, HA-CDI incidence doubled (29 per 10,000 in 2000 and 52 per 10,000 in 2007). Overall, including PD-CDI events resulted in significantly higher hospital-specific CDI incidence, although hospitals had disproportionate amounts of HA-CDI occurring postdischarge. This resulted in substantial shifts in some hospitals' rankings by CDI incidence. In multivariate models, both HO and PD-CDI were associated with increasing age, higher length of stay, and select comorbidities. Race and Hispanic ethnicity were predictive of PD-CDI but not HO-CDI.

Conclusions. PD-CDI events associated with rehospitalization are increasingly common. The majority of HA-CDI cases may be occurring postdischarge, raising important questions about both accurate reporting and effective prevention strategies. Some risk factors for PD-CDI may be different than those for HO-CDI, allowing additional identification of high-risk groups before discharge.

Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2012;33(1):20-28

(Received July 12 2011)

(Accepted August 25 2011)


c1 Health Policy Research Institute, 100 Theory Drive, Suite 110, Irvine, CA 92617 (