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C. Diff Infection after Hysterectomy

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C. Diff Infection 101I‘ve heard some women get C. diff infection after a hysterectomy. What do I need to know about it and how can I prevent it?

It is possible to develop C. diff infection, or Clostridium difficile colitis, after a hysterectomy. C. diff is a bacteria found in the environment and in some healthy individuals which can be harmless. However, when it gets out of balance it can produce toxins which cause Clostridium difficile colitis or C. diff infection. This infection then attacks and damages the lining of the colon causing multiple symptoms.

Having a hysterectomy can put you at risk for C. diff for a couple reasons. Your surgeon may prescribe an antibiotic to help treat or prevent infection which can result from your hysterectomy. However, the antibiotic can also destroy the good bacteria which keeps C. diff in check, allowing it to multiply and release harmful toxins. In addition, C. diff is contagious and can be spread in health care facilities. Thus, you could contract it at your surgery center.

Symptoms of C. diff infection can be more intense the more severe the infection and include the following:
  • Frequent, watery diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Cramping and abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Blood or pus in stool

C. diff infection can also cause complications such as dehydration, kidney failure, swollen intestine, bowel perforation, and even death. As such, it is important to let your doctor know right away if you suspect you may have C. diff infection. Your doctor will send a stool sample to a lab, but may also order a colonoscopy, x-ray, or CT scan to determine how extensive any suspected damage might be.

Treatment for C. diff usually involves specific antibiotics which can treat the symptoms and prevent the C. difficile from growing. Depending on the severity of the infection, the antibiotics can be given orally or by IV. If extensive damage has been done to the colon or other organs, surgery may be necessary to treat or remove those areas.

You can also take a probiotic to promote good bacteria. While you are dealing with the infection, your digestive tract will be very sensitive so it can be helpful to avoid foods which contain diary, wheat flour, and high amounts of fiber. It is also important to drink lots of fluids to help prevent dehydration which can occur from the diarrhea.

To prevent C. diff infection or minimize spreading it once you have it, good hygiene is essential. Besides washing your hands with soap and water, you should also wash and disinfect anything touched by hands such as doorknobs, drawer handles, keyboards, telephones, kitchen appliances, steering wheel, and keys. Hand washing is especially important after using the restroom, when visiting a medical facility, and before eating.

You can be at greater risk for C. diff infection if
  • you are 65 or older,
  • have had C. diff infection in the past,
  • have cancer or disease of the colon,
  • have kidney disease,
  • use proton-pump inhibitors,
  • use extensive or prolonged antibiotics, or
  • use chemotherapy drugs.

If you have extra risks for C. diff infection or have specific concerns about, talk to your doctor prior to your hysterectomy. Together, you and your physician can determine the best plan for you which may include minimizing antibiotic use, specific hand washing and sanitizing instructions, taking a probiotic, and precautions while hospitalized.

This content was written by staff of HysterSisters.com by non-medical professionals based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

09-30-2014 - 07:07 PM


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