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Hospital Stays Involving C. difficile Infections Leveled Off After 300 Percent Increase Since 1993

AHRQ News and Numbers, January 25, 2012

AHRQ News and Numbers provides statistical highlights on the use and cost of health services and health insurance in the United States.

Hospital stays involving Clostridium difficile infections, which can cause severe diarrhea, colitis and even death, increased 300 percent between 1993 and 2008, but the number of hospital stays leveled off between 2008 and 2009, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). There were 86,000 hospital stays involving C. difficile in 1993, increasing to 349,000 in 2008, but in 2009 there were about 337,000 stays.

C. difficile is the bacterium that causes an intestinal infection. While normally present in the intestine, this bacterium may dominate when antibiotics are taken and causes inflammation and bleeding in the colon. In its most severe form, C. difficile can be treated only by completely removing the colon.

Common conditions among patients hospitalized with C. difficile in 2009 included dehydration and electrolyte disorders, blood infections and renal failure. Hospital stays for C. difficile include any diagnosis coded as C. difficile, regardless of when the condition started.

The Federal agency reported that among all hospitalized patients with C. difficile in 2009:

  • Patients age 85 and older were at highest risk, with hospital stays at a rate of 1,089 per 100,000 people. This was more than double the next highest rate, for those age 65 to 84, at 465 stays per 100,000.
  • More than 9 percent of hospital stays with C. difficile ended in death, compared with less than 2 percent for all other hospital stays.
  • Patients with this condition spent an average of 13 days in the hospital, while the average hospital stay for others was less than 5 days.

This AHRQ News and Numbers summary is based on data from Statistical Brief #124: Clostridium difficile Infections (CDI) in Hospital Stays, 2009 (PDF File). The report uses data from AHRQ's Nationwide Inpatient Sample. For information about this AHRQ database, go to

For additional information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Linwood Norman at or (301) 427-1248.

Page last reviewed January 2012
Internet Citation: Hospital Stays Involving C. difficile Infections Leveled Off After 300 Percent Increase Since 1993: AHRQ News and Numbers, January 25, 2012. January 2012. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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