What is Diverticulitis Surgery?

Mary McMahon

Diverticulitis surgery is surgery performed to treat diverticulitis, an inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract which is most commonly observed in the colon. Less than 10% of people with diverticulitis need surgery to treat the condition. In cases where surgery may be required, it can be recommended for a number of different reasons. Rare instances may necessitate emergency diverticulitis surgery.

Diverticulitis surgery may be required to treat an inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract.
Diverticulitis surgery may be required to treat an inflammatory disease of the intestinal tract.

Diverticulitis starts with diverticulosis, in which small pouches form along the intestinal tract. Many people have these pouches, known as diverticula, and in fact they are extremely common in people over 50. Some people do not experience any problems in association with their diverticula. Others develop diverticulitis, in which the pouches become inflamed and people experience symptoms such as abdominal tenderness, fever, and pain. This condition can put the patient at risk of complications.

A diagram showing diverticulitis and other colon problems.
A diagram showing diverticulitis and other colon problems.

Some problems which can arise include: fistula, a connection formed between the colon and another organ in the body by way of a diverticulum; rupture of a diverticulum; bleeding from the colon; painful and repeated bouts of inflammation; infection; cancers, and a stricture in which the colon is blocked. All of these complications may be cause to recommend surgery. In cases such as rupture, the surgery needs to be performed right away so that it can be quickly corrected and the patient can be treated to reduce the risk of developing peritonitis.

In the surgery, which is usually performed by a gastroenterology specialist, the diseased section of the colon is removed. In some cases, a colon anastomosis can be performed, with the two ends being sewn together. For some patients, however, a temporary colostomy must be performed to allow fecal material to drain to a bag outside the body. Once the patient has recovered from the first surgery, another diverticulitis surgery can be performed to remove the colostomy and rejoin the severed ends of the colon.

Like any surgical procedure, diverticulitis surgery has risks. People can experience complications from anesthesia, may develop infections, and could potentially be left with a colostomy for life. Before diverticulitis surgery patients should discuss their medical history with the surgical team to make sure that any risk factors are identified before going into the operating room, and patients should also make sure that they are informed about the risks. The surgeon should also be able to provide the patient with information about how many diverticulitis surgeries she or he has performed and what the patient outcomes were.

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