Fulminant Clostridioides difficile Infection: A Review of Treatment Options for a Life-Threatening Infection

Travis J. Carlson, Anne J. Gonzales-Luna, Kevin W. Garey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Fulminant Clostridioides difficile infection (FCDI) encompasses 3 to 5% of all CDI cases with associated mortality rates between 30 and 40%. Major treatment modalities include surgery and medical management with antibiotic and nonantibiotic therapies. However, identification of patients with CDI that will progress to FCDI is difficult and makes it challenging to direct medical management and identify those who may benefit from surgery. Furthermore, since it is difficult to study such a critically ill population, data investigating treatment options are limited. Surgical management with diverting loop ileostomy (LI) instead of a total abdominal colectomy (TAC) with end ileostomy has several appealing advantages, and studies have not consistently demonstrated a clinical benefit with this less-invasive strategy, so both LI and TAC remain acceptable surgical options. Successful medical management of FCDI is complicated by pharmacokinetic changes that occur in critically ill patients, and there is an absence of high-quality studies that included patients with FCDI. Recommendations accordingly include a combination of antibiotics administered via multiple routes to ensure adequate drug concentrations in the colon: intravenous metronidazole, high-dose oral vancomycin, and rectal vancomycin. Although fidaxomicin is now recommended as first-line therapy for non-FCDI, there are limited clinical data to support its use in FCDI. Several nonantibiotic therapies, including fecal microbiota transplantation and intravenous immunoglobulin, have shown success as adjunctive therapies, but they are unlikely to be effective alone. In this review, we aim to summarize diagnosis and treatment options for FCDI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-38
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Clostridium difficile
  • colectomy
  • fecal microbiota transplantation
  • fidaxomicin
  • metronidazole
  • vancomycin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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