National epidemiology of initial and recurrent Clostridium difficile infection in the Veterans Health Administration from 2003 to 2014

Kelly R. Reveles, Kenneth A. Lawson, Eric M. Mortensen, Mary Jo V. Pugh, Jim M. Koeller, Jacqueline R. Argamany, Christopher R. Frei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Introduction: Prior studies demonstrated marked increases in Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) in the United States (U.S.) in recent years. The objective of this study was to describe the epidemiology of initial and recurrent CDI in a national Veterans Health Administration (VHA) cohort over a 12-year period. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of all adult VHA beneficiaries with CDI (ICD-9-CM code 008.45) plus a positive CDI stool test between October 1, 2002 and September 30, 2014. Data were obtained from the VA Informatics and Computing Infrastructure. Recurrence was defined as a second ICD-9-CM code plus a new course of CDI therapy following a minimum three-day gap after the initial therapy was completed. CDI incidence and outcomes were presented descriptively and longitudinally. Results: Overall, 30,326 patients met study inclusion criteria. CDI incidence increased from FY 2003 (1.6 per 10,000) to FY 2013 (5.1 per 10,000). Thereafter, CDI incidence decreased through FY 2014 (4.6 per 10,000). A total of 5,011 patients (17%) experienced a first recurrence and, of those, 1,713 (34%) experienced a second recurrence. Recurrence incidence increased 10-fold over the study period, from (0.1 per 10,000) in FY 2003, to (1.0 per 10,000) in FY 2014. Overall, 30-day mortality and median hospital length of stay (LOS) decreased among initial episodes over the study period. Mortality was higher for initial episodes (21%) compared to first recurrences (11%) and second recurrences (7%). Median hospital LOS was longer for first episodes (13 days) compared to first (9 days) and second recurrences (8 days). Conclusions: Initial and recurrent CDI episodes increased among veterans over a 12-year period. Outcomes, such as mortality and hospital LOS improved in recent years; both of these outcomes are worse for initial CDI episodes than recurrent episodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0189227
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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