The most severe form of antibiotic-associated diarrhea, pseudomembranous colitis, can rarely lead to life-threatening complications, including:
June 11, 2013
- Dehydration. Severe diarrhea can lead to excessive loss of fluids and electrolytes — essential substances such as sodium and potassium. Extreme fluid loss can cause serious complications. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include a very dry mouth, intense thirst, little or no urination, and extreme weakness.
- A hole in your bowel (bowel perforation). Extensive damage to the lining of your large intestine can lead to a perforation in the wall of your intestine, requiring surgery to repair the hole.
- Toxic megacolon. In this condition, your colon becomes unable to expel gas and stool, causing it to become greatly distended (megacolon). Signs and symptoms of toxic megacolon include abdominal pain and swelling, fever, and weakness. Toxic megacolon is a serious complication that can lead to infection or a ruptured colon. Toxic megacolon requires aggressive treatment, usually with medications or possibly surgery.
- Death. Severe complications caused by antibiotic-associated diarrhea can result in death.
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- Diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/diarrhea/#treated. Accessed March 27, 2013.
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- LaMont JT. Clostridium difficile in adults: Epidemiology, microbiology, and pathophysiology. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 25, 2013.
- Rebmann T, et al. Preventing Clostridium difficile infections: An executive summary of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology's elimination guide. American Journal of Infection Control. 2011;39:239.
- Surawicz CM, et al. Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Clostridium difficile infections. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. In press. Accessed March 25, 2013.
- Wanke CA. Approach to the adult with acute diarrhea in developed countries. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 2, 2013.
- Hempel S, et al. Probiotics for the Prevention and Treatment of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2012;307:1959.
- Rohren CH (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 8, 2013.