William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Diverticulosis and diverticulitis facts
- What is diverticulosis?
- What is diverticulitis?
- What causes diverticula and how do diverticula form?
- What are diverticulitis symptoms?
- Is there a special diet or digestive supplement that can treat or prevent diverticulitis symptoms?
- What are the more serious complications of diverticulitis?
- How are the diagnosis of diverticulitis and diverticulosis made?
- What is the treatment for diverticulitis and diverticulosis?
- Medical treatment of diverticulitis and diverticulosis
- Surgical treatment for diverticulitis
- Pictures of Diverticulitis (Diverticulosis) - Slideshow
- Find a local Gastroenterologist in your town
What are the more serious complications of diverticulitis?
More serious complications of diverticulitis include:
- Collections of pus (abscess) in the pelvis where the diverticulum has ruptured
- Colonic obstruction
- Generalized infection of the abdominal cavity (bacterial peritonitis)
- Bleeding into the colon
A diverticulum can rupture, and the bacteria within the colon can spread into the tissues surrounding the colon (diverticulitis). Constipation or diarrhea also may occur. A collection of pus can develop around the ruptured diverticulum, leading to formation of an abscess, usually in the pelvis. Inflammation surrounding the colon also can lead to colonic obstruction. Infrequently, a diverticulum ruptures freely into the abdominal cavity causing a life threatening infection called peritonitis. On rare occasions, the inflamed diverticula can erode into the urinary bladder, causing bladder infection and passing of intestinal gas in the urine.
Diverticular bleeding occurs when the expanding diverticulum erodes into a blood vessel within the diverticulum. Rectal passage of red, dark or maroon-colored blood and clots occur without any associated abdominal pain if there is no diverticulitis, but bleeding into the colon also may occur during an episode of diverticulitis. Blood from a diverticulum of the right colon may caue the stool to become black in color. Bleeding may be continuous or intermittent, lasting several days.
Patients with active bleeding usually are hospitalized for observation. Intravenous fluids are given to support the blood pressure. Blood transfusions are necessary for those with moderate to severe blood loss. In a rare individual with brisk and severe bleeding, the blood pressure may drop, causing dizziness, shock, and loss of consciousness. In most patients, bleeding stops spontaneously and they are sent home after several days in the hospital. Patients with persistent, severe bleeding require surgical removal of the bleeding diverticula.
How are the diagnosis of diverticulitis and diverticulosis made?
If suspected, the diagnosis of diverticular disease can be confirmed by a variety of tests. Barium X-rays (barium enemas) can be performed to visualize the colon. Diverticula are seen as barium filled pouches protruding from the colon wall.
Direct visualization of the inside of the colon and the openings of the diverticula can be done with flexible tubes inserted through the rectum and advanced into the colon. Either short tubes (sigmoidoscopes) or longer tubes (colonoscopes) may be used to assist in the diagnosis and to exclude other diseases that can mimic diverticular disease.
In patients suspected of having diverticulitis causing persistent pain, tenderness, and fever; ultrasound and computerized tomography (CT) examinations of the abdomen and pelvis can be done to detect inflammation of the tissues surrounding the ruptured diverticulum or collections of pus.
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