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.
Diverticula originally develop due to:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
Please contact both your Plan and the physician’s office for participation as this may vary at any time.