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To evaluate the epidemiology of Clostridium difficile colitis (CDC) in a subset of patients admitted specifically to a surgical service.CDC is an increasingly prevalent nosocomial infection that can prolong hospitalization and adversely affect patient outcome. Although this disease has been investigated extensively in patients admitted to medical services, the incidence and risk factors for the development of this disease in patients admitted to a surgical service have not been studied.Over a 5-month period, 374 patients admitted to the general, vascular, thoracic, and urologic surgery services were monitored for the development of symptomatic CDC (defined as >3 bowel movements per 24 hours and a positive cytotoxin assay or culture).Twenty-one patients developed CDC (incidence, 5.6%). Factors that independently predisposed to infection included admission from a skilled care facility, use of the antibiotic cefoxitin, and an operative procedure for bowel obstruction. Other factors associated with CDC included colectomy, treatment with any antibiotic, nasogastric tube suction, advanced age, and prior antibiotic treatment. Abdominal pain and fever were also more common in patients with CDC. Morbidity included prolonged hospitalization in all patients and urgent colectomy in one.CDC frequently affects surgical patients, producing morbidity ranging from mild diarrhea to life-threatening illness. A variety of factors, many of which are associated with intestinal stasis, predispose to the development of CDC.