A pouch that forms in the wall of the large intestine is called a diverticulum. When this pouch becomes infected or swollen, it is called diverticulitis.
Infected pouches along the colon.
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It is not clear why the pouches form. It may be due to a constant build up of pressure when food moves too slowly through the bowel. This pressure increases and pushes along the sidewalls of the bowel creating pouches. Digested food or stool can become trapped in one of the pouches. This leads to swelling and infection.
The following may contribute to diverticulitis:
Factors that increase your chance of getting diverticulitis include:
Symptoms can come on suddenly. They vary depending on the degree of the infection.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and rectal exam will be done. Finding the disease early is important. The pouch can break, releasing stool into the abdomen. This is a medical emergency that requires surgery.
Tests may include:
After the inflammation subsides, other tests may be performed to examine the colon, including:
The goals of treatment is to:
Antibiotics and other drugs are given to fight the infection. Pain medications and drugs are given to decrease the abdominal pain.
You may also be given medication to help control vomiting.
For mild swelling, you can drink clear liquids for the first two to three days. For a more severe case, you will be admitted to the hospital, where fluids are given by IV. Antibiotics will also be given to you through IV.
Changes in your diet can help prevent future attacks.
Surgery to remove the section of the bowel with pouches may be recommended if:
Surgery is also used to treat complications of diverticulitis, such as:
When surgery is done on an elective basis, the surgeon will remove the part of the bowel that is diseased and connect the normal parts of the bowel back together.
When surgery is done on an emergency basis, the diseased part of the bowel will be removed. The healthy parts of the bowel will not be connected right away. Your bowel will need time to rest and heal. The upper part of the bowel will be attached to the abdominal wall. A port will allow waste to pass from the intestine to a bag outside of your body. If possible, the healthy bowel will be reconnected after 6-12 weeks.
If you are diagnosed with diverticulitis, follow your doctor's instructions .
Last reviewed September 2013 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.