Contact Us  |  Search: 
Printer Friendly VersionEmail A FriendAdd ThisIncrease Text SizeDecrease Text Size

Diverticulitis

 

Definition

Diverticulitis is swelling (inflammation) of an abnormal pouch (diverticulum) in the intestinal wall. These pouches are usually found in the large intestine (colon). The presence of the pouches themselves is called diverticulosis.

Causes

Small, protruding sacs of the inner lining of the intestine (diverticulosis) can develop in any part of the intestine. They are most common in the colon, especially the sigmoid colon, the lowest part of the colon.

These sacs, called diverticula, occur more often after the age of 40. When they become inflamed, the condition is known as diverticulitis. Diverticula are thought to develop as a result of high pressure or abnormal pressure in the colon. High pressure against the colon wall causes pouches of the intestinal lining to bulge outward through small defects in the colon wall that surround blood vessels.

Diverticulosis is very common. It is found in more than half of Americans over age 60. Only a small percentage of these people will develop the complication of diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis is caused by inflammation, or (sometimes) a small tear in a diverticulum. If the tear is large, stool in the colon can spill into the abdominal cavity, causing an infection (abscess) or inflammation in the abdomen.

Risk factors for diverticulosis may include older age or a low-fiber diet.

Symptoms
Signs and tests

Tests showing diverticulitis may include:

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

Usually, this is a mild condition that responds well to treatment.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if symptoms of diverticulitis occur.

Also call if you have diverticulitis and symptoms worsen or new symptoms develop.

Complications
  • Abscess formation
  • Narrowing (stricture) in the colon or fistula formation
  • Perforation of the colon leading to peritonitis
Treatments

Acute diverticulitis is treated with antibiotics.

The involved portion of the colon may need to be removed with surgery if you have:

  • Abscess
  • Hole (perforation) in the colon
  • Fistula (abnormal connections between different parts of the colon or the colon and another body area)
  • Repeated attacks of diverticulitis

After the acute infection has improved, eating high-fiber foods and using bulk additives such as psyllium may help reduce the risk of diverticulitis or other symptoms.

Prevention

A high-fiber diet may prevent development of diverticulosis. Some doctors tell patients with a history of diverticulitis to avoid nuts and seeds in the diet. However, there is no evidence that this is helpful to prevent the disease.

References

Prather C. Inflammatory and anatomic diseases of the intestine, peritoneum, mesentery, and omentum. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 145.


Review Date: 1/28/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; George F Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2009 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
MAIMONIDES
MEDICAL CENTER


Home Page
Why Choose Us
Donations
Website Terms of Use
PATIENT
INFORMATION


Visitor & Patient Info
We Speak Your Language
Patient Privacy
Contact Us
KEY
INFORMATION


Find a Physician
Medical Services
Maimonides In the News
Directions & Parking
FOR HEALTH
PROFESSIONALS


Medical Education
Career Opportunities
Nurses & Physicians
Staff Intranet Access

Maimonides Medical Center    |    4802 Tenth Avenue    |    Brooklyn, NY 11219    |    718.283.6000