Over the past few years, fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), or stool transplantation, has become an important treatment option for those suffering with Clostridium difficile infection.

And while this procedure may sound unusual, the idea of FMT has been around for centuries and fecal transplants may actually cure some infectious diseases.

“Fecal transplantation can be a life-saving option for patients in need,” said Marc Schwartz, MD, assistant professor of medicine and fecal transplantation expert in the University of Pittsburgh Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

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About Clostridium Difficile

Clostridium difficile (also known as C difficile or C diff), is a serious bacterial infection that can cause swelling and inflammation in the colon or large intestine.

C diff is contagious and most commonly affects people who are elderly, in the hospital, chronically ill, or taking antibiotics. C diff is often passed from person to person, when an infected person, or someone in contact with an infected person, does not wash their hands with soap and water. The serious symptoms of C diff can be very painful and include:

C diff can be treated with antibiotics but when the infection reoccurs, a fecal transplant may be needed.

How Does Fecal Transplant Work?

During a fecal transplant, stool is provided from a healthy donor and is processed for transplantation into the colon of an infected patient. This is most commonly done through colonoscopy or upper endoscopy.

During this procedure, a colonoscope (through the rectum), endoscope (through the mouth), or feeding tube (through the mouth) is inserted into the intestine, allowing the healthy donor stool to be inserted. From there, the healthy bacteria from the donor’s stool will fight and eliminate the C diff infection.

Who Can Be a Fecal Transplant Donor?

In order to start the process of a stool transplant, a healthy donor is needed. Friends and family members are common donors, but any healthy person’s stool may be used. All donors must go through testing to be sure that further infection is not spread to the person receiving the transplant.

Potential donors should not:

  • Have taken antibiotics for three months prior to the transplant
  • Have a history of inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, colon cancer, or other chronic gastrointestinal diseases
  • Have any chronic medical problems
  • Have a history of drug use

Recovery from Fecal Matter Transplant

After a fecal matter transplant, the recipient will need a caregiver to drive them home. They may continue their typical activities, as tolerated. Learn more by visiting the UPMC Digestive Disorders Center website.

About Digestive Disorders

The UPMC Digestive Disorders Center cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Most of our office visits and outpatient procedures take place at UPMC Presbyterian or UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Oakland. We also provide inpatient care at UPMC Montefiore or UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland.