Drs. Deirdre Hart and Kevin T. Barnett discuss diverticulitis.

What is diverticulitis?

Diverticulum or diverticula are outpouchings on the colon. They're very common as people get older. If one of these pockets gets infected or inflamed, it's diverticulitis. Just because you have the diverticula doesn't mean you have or will have diverticulitis.

How is diverticulitis diagnosed?

Typical presentation is someone who's going to develop some pain in their left lower abdominal quadrant. They may have some fevers or chills. They may have some change in their bowel habits. We will look to see if they have an elevated white blood count, which would suggest infection. We'd also have a CAT scan of their abdomen, which would show some inflammation of the colon as well. We may see these on an urgent basis in the hospital, or sometimes patients are treated and sent over to the office for evaluation. 

What are diverticulitis treatment options?

If it's a mild case, a lot of times they can be treated with oral antibiotics. If it's severe and there's been a little perforation or a rupture, they may have to go to the hospital and be on IV antibiotics. If this is the first or second episode and they respond well to the antibiotics, they may not need any surgery. However, if it's a persistent problem or complex diverticulitis, we may be talking about doing a resection.

What is a colon resection?

Basically we look at the CT scan and colonoscopy to see the extent of the disease. Typically, this is going to be in the sigmoid colon, which is on the left side. We go in and take out that part of the colon where the disease is located. We cut that out and then take the two ends and staple them back together to reconnect the intestines.