A Surgical Team Beyond Compare

Colorectal surgeons at the University of Chicago Medicine are skilled in evaluating the presence of diverticular disease, as well as providing medical and surgical treatment options.

Diverticula are common in adults. Most patients never have any symptoms and do not develop diverticulitis. However, in some instances, one or more diverticulum becomes inflamed, leading to diverticulitis.

Depending on the severity of the inflammation, symptoms may be very mild or more severe.

Symptoms of Diverticulitis

General symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Change in stool
  • Cramping
  • Fever

More serious signs of diverticulitis include:

  • Abscess
  • Perforation
  • Peritonitis (severe abdominal infection)
  • Sepsis

What Causes Diverticulitis?

We do not know exactly what causes some patients to develop diverticulitis. A diet very high in fiber can reduce the risk. Foods such as popcorn, nuts and seeds were traditionally thought to contribute to diverticulitis, but this has been shown not to be true.

Types of Diverticulitis

Patients with uncomplicated diverticulitis often have mild symptoms that can be managed with a course of oral antibiotics at home. In some instances, hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics may be required. These episodes can recur, however, patients who have a mild form very rarely develop a more serious disease later on, and surgery usually is not required.

Complicated diverticulitis means the inflammation and infection has progressed to form an abscess or free perforation. Patients with complicated diverticulitis usually require hospital admission and intravenous antibiotics. If a larger abscess is present, it may require drainage with a small drain placed by interventional radiology. In rare circumstances when a patient is very ill or is not responding to antibiotics, urgent surgery is required and a portion of the colon may be removed.

Diverticulitis and Fistulas

Other complications related to diverticulitis include intestinal obstruction and fistula formation. A fistula is a connection from one organ to another, or to the skin. Patients with fistula formation from diverticulitis eventually require surgery to treat the problem. Due to these potential complications, it's important to see a colorectal surgeon who has experience in diagnosing and treating diverticulitis, as well as other disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Our team of fellowship-trained experts will work with you to create a comprehensive care plan and answer any questions you may have.

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