Diverticulitis

Diverticula are small pouches in the colon, most often in the sigmoid colon. People whose colons contain these pockets are diagnosed with a condition known as diverticulosis. A small percentage of people with diverticulosis develop problems related to their diverticulum, such as lower gastrointestinal bleeding, and inflammation and infection of the diverticula — called diverticulitis. Patients with diverticulitis usually experience abdominal pain, fever, diarrhea or constipation. Mild diverticulitis can be treated with changes in diet, antibiotics and rest. Severe and chronic diverticulitis may require surgery.

Board certified colon and rectal surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offer the most advanced and effective approaches for patients with diverticulitis, including non-surgical lifestyle and medication management, and minimally invasive surgery options such as laparoscopic colectomy. Learn more about diverticulitis.

Watch this video about diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis Topics

Diagnosis of Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is most often diagnosed by CT scan, and always diagnosed prior to referral to a colon and rectal surgeon.

Treatment for Diverticulitis

Colon and rectal surgeons at BWH offer a range of surgical and non-surgical procedures for treating diverticulitis, including:

Surgical Treatment

Patients with uncomplicated diverticulitis may be managed with bowel rest and antibiotics. As episodes become frequent and/or more complicated, elective resection may be advised to avoid further and potentially more involved episodes.

Patients with complicated episodes of diverticulitis, such as intra-abdominal abscess formation, fistulae formation or free perforation of the bowel, may require a colectomy. Most patients recover completely with resumption of normal bowel habits.

Read instructions for magnesium citrate bowel preparation prior to surgery.

Non-Surgical Treatment

If diverticulitis symptoms are mild, your surgeon may recommend:

  • High fiber diet: whole grains; fruit, such as berries, apples, and peaches; vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach, carrots, asparagus, and squash; beans
  • Medications (to control pain and muscle spasms, for infection and inflammation)
  • Resting the colon, with liquid diet
What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have diverticulitis and if surgery is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced colon and rectal surgeon are important to the successful outcome for patients with colorectal conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in diverticulitis surgery. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating diverticulitis. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.

Resources

Go to our health library to learn more about diverticulitis.

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Visit the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation.

Access a complete directory of patient and family services.

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