Suburban Surgical Associates/Suburban Metabolic Institute

General Surgeons located in Berwyn, IL & La Grange, IL

Even though your risk of developing diverticulitis rises as you age, it doesn’t just affect older adults: About 20% of those with diverticulitis are younger than 50 years. The physicians at Suburban Surgical Associates/Suburban Metabolic Institute offer surgical treatment of diverticulitis, removing the inflamed and damaged part of your large intestine before complications can develop. If you experience pain in your lower abdomen, please call one of our offices in Berwyn, or La Grange, Illinois, or book an appointment online.

Diverticulitis Q & A

What are diverticula and diverticulitis?

Diverticula are small pouches that bulge out from the lining of your gastrointestinal tract. They can develop anywhere along the tract, including your esophagus and small intestine, but they commonly occur in the lower part of your large intestine or colon.

Diverticulosis -- the presence of one or more diverticula -- is common and seldom causes problems. The pouches, however, can become infected and inflamed. When that happens, you have diverticulitis.

What causes diverticulitis?

Diverticula originally develop due to:

  • Structural abnormalities or a weakness in the colon wall
  • High pressure in the colon due to motility disorders and problems like constipation
  • Not getting enough dietary fiber
  • Consumption of too many highly processed foods and grains

Researchers are still studying the cause of diverticulitis, but it may develop when there’s an overgrowth of normal colonic bacteria or when fecal material or undigested food collects in the pouch, causing a focal obstructive process. It may also occur when colon wall erodes or a diverticula tears.  

Concerns about whether eating foods with nuts or seeds, such as popcorn, cause diverticulitis have so far been unfounded in medical studies. But all the same, if you have a history of diverticulitis, it may be better to eat these foods in moderation.

What symptoms develop when you have diverticulitis?

Diverticulitis's most common symptom is pain. Pain is most likely to occur in your lower left part of your abdomen since that’s where diverticulitis is usually present, although sometimes people complain of right-sided or lower middle abdominal pain.

The pain may range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of inflammation. In the most severe case, gently touching your abdomen can elicit extreme pain. You may also experience:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Difficulty urinating, urinary frequency or urgency

How is diverticulitis treated?

Mild to moderate cases of diverticulitis may be treated with oral antibiotics to treat the infection. You may also follow a liquid or soft diet temporarily to give your colon time to heal. That often requires an inpatient stay in the hospital.   

If your case is complicated because an abscess, fistula, intestinal obstruction, or perforation have developed, you may need drainage procedures or surgery to prevent the infection from spreading into your abdomen.  

Surgery is also viable if you have:

  • Severe symptoms that don’t respond to medication in several days
  • Worsening pain, tenderness, and fever
  • Recurrent diverticulitis

Our surgeons will help develop the optimal care plan for your episode of diverticulitis once diagnosed. Once your episode resolves, some people may consider elective surgery to prevent future attacks of diverticulitis.  

The decision about whether to have interval surgery for episodes of diverticulitis depends on your age, the number and severity of your attacks, along with other factors. Your surgeon will discuss this decision pathway with you in detail.

What type of surgery is used to treat diverticulitis?

Surgery for diverticulitis typically involves resection of the diseased portion of the colon, called a colectomy. During a colectomy, your surgeon removes the part of your colon affected by diverticulitis, then reconnects the two ends. All of our surgeons are experts in minimally invasive colon surgery.

Whenever possible, a colectomy is performed using laparoscopic surgery, where the procedure is done through a few smaller incisions. That reduces recovery time and can decrease the risk of future hernias and wound complications, although there's always a small chance that a traditional open approach is needed.