About half of all adults over the age of 50 have diverticula. These small pouches can occur anywhere in the digestive tract, but they are most commonly observed in the lining of the colon. Fortunately, most patients with diverticula experience no complications or symptoms. In this case, where diverticula are present but asymptomatic, the condition is known as diverticulosis. However, for about 20 percent of patients, the diverticula will become inflamed or infected or begin to bleed leading to a number of painful symptoms. This condition is known as diverticulitis.
What are the Symptoms of Diverticulitis?
The most prominent symptom of diverticulitis is pain. When the condition flares, this pain can be acute and persistent, lasting for days at a time. Most often, it is felt in the lower left portion of the abdomen. Although, it may be felt on the right-hand side as well. Additionally, patients may experience nausea or vomiting, tenderness to the abdomen, fever, and constipation.
What are the Types of Diverticulitis Surgery?
Treatments for diverticulitis typically include antibiotics along with a temporary liquid diet and over-the-counter medicines for pain. In more severe or chronic cases, surgical intervention may be recommended. These procedures are performed in two main ways:
- Primary Bowel Resection – In this procedure, the diseased portions of the intestine are removed and the healthy areas reconnected. This allows patients to continue to have normal digestion and bowel movements following their surgery. In some cases, it can even be performed laparoscopically.
- Bowel Resection with Colostomy – In more severe cases of diverticulitis, so much inflammation may be present that reconnection is not possible. In these instances, the surgeon will connect the colon to an opening in the abdomen (stoma), where waste can pass into a colostomy bag. Later, after inflammation has improved, it may be possible to reverse the colostomy and reconnect the healed tissue.
When is Diverticulitis Surgery Needed?
As is the case with most conditions, surgical intervention for diverticulitis is considered a last resort. Ideally, the disease is controlled through lifestyle changes such as increased fiber and water intake and exercise with medications being used when flare-ups occur. Still there are certain cases where surgery becomes necessary. Your doctor may recommend it if any of the following are applicable:
- You have had multiple bouts of diverticulitis that are unimproved by medication and lifestyle changes.
- You are immune compromised.
- You have a complication such as a bowel obstruction, perforation, fistula, or abscess.
- You are experiencing signs of sepsis.
While the odds of experiencing diverticulitis are fairly low, the odds of requiring surgery are even lower. Still, there are cases where surgical intervention is necessary and gives a patient the best outlook for health and symptom relief.
If you are experiencing the signs and symptoms of diverticulitis, do not let the condition go untreated. Contact your physician for a diagnosis and treatment plan, and should complications persist and surgery be required, request an appointment with Lane Surgery Group where our team of experienced surgeons are waiting to help.