Patient Handout Information
About Your Diagnosis
Diverticuli are herniations
of the colon mucosa through the muscular layer of the colon. This produces
a small sac-like swelling in the colon wall. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticuli
become inflamed and infected. Small abscesses form and then rupture causing
symptoms. Diverticulitis occurs during lifetime in about half of the individuals
who have diverticuli. Roughly 3,000 cases per 100,000 individuals occur annually.
It is not a contagious or cancerous condition. A barium enema x-ray examination
is used to detect this condition. Diverticuli may also be found on colonoscopy
or flexible sigmoidoscopy (lighted flexible tubes used to examine the colon).
With treatment the prognosis is good. Relapses do occur, however.
Living With Your
The initial symptoms of diverticulitis are intermittent cramping and abdominal
pain that becomes constant. The location of the pain is usually in the left
lower abdominal area. Fever and chills can occur, as well as constipation
or diarrhea. There is generally a loss of appetite and nausea. Examination
may reveal tenderness and a mass over the painful area. An elevated white
blood cell count is usually present. Complications of diverticulitis include
hemorrhage (bleeding), perforation (rupture), bowel obstruction, and abscess
Treatment is generally outpatient unless the symptoms are severe and there
are signs of widespread infection or complications. Bed rest, stool softeners,
a liquid diet, and oral antibiotics are the basis of outpatient treatment.
If hospitalized, the treatment is similar. You are put at bed rest and intravenous
fluids are given. Intravenous antibiotics are started, and analgesics are
given for pain control. Initially you may not be allowed to eat. As the symptoms
resolve, your diet is slowly returned to a high-fiber, low-fat diet. If the
case is severe or complicated, surgical resection of the affected area of
colon is an option. Surgical resection is a treatment option for frequent
1) Take medications as prescribed.
2) Eat a high-fiber, low-salt, low-fat diet between attacks.
3) Drink plenty of fluids between attacks.
4) Maintain proper physical activity between attacks.
5) Maintain proper weight. Try to lose weight if overweight.
6) Maintain proper bowel habits by trying to have a bowel movement daily.
7) Watch for signs of blood in the stool or dark tarry bowel movements.
8) Watch for signs of reoccurrences and other complications, such as abdominal
pain and fever.
1) Do not strain with bowel movements.
2) Avoid laxatives.
When to Call Your
1) If you have blood in the stool.
2) If abdominal pain develops or becomes worse.
3) If a fever develops and you have abdominal pain.
1998, Mosby, Inc.