Review article: management of diverticulitis


  • Conflicts of interest:
    The author has declared no conflicts of interest.

  • This article appeared as part of a supplement sponsored by Nycomed bv.

Dr R. J. F. Felt-Bersma, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, VU University Medical Centre, P.O. Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Background and Aim  The incidence and therefore complications of (sigmoid) diverticular disease are increasing.

Methods  Review of current literature.

Results  From all patients, 15% will develop diverticulitis, 5% complications and 5% diverticular bleeding. Diagnosis is established with computerised tomography. Colonoscopy is needed to rule out malignancy. NSAIDs increase the risk of perforation; steroids, diabetes, collagen vascular disease and immune compromised are associated with complicated disease and death. In mild diverticulitis, antibiotics are recommended. In complicated disease with abscesses, <5 cm antibiotics are sufficient. Larger abscesses are drained under computerised tomography-guidance. Peritonitis forms an indication for surgery. Diverticulitis recurrence rate is around 30%, most are uncomplicated. Recurrence after surgery is around 10%. Elective surgery is reserved for fistula closure and obstruction. The need for elective surgery to prevent recurrence has diminished because of new insights. Important is to identify risk groups. New issues are the possible relationship between diverticulitis and cancer, segmental colitis associated with diverticulitis, and treatment of diverticulitis with mesalazine and probiotics.

Conclusions  Uncomplicated diverticulitis is treated medically. Complicated diverticulitis with small abscesses is treated with antibiotics while larger abscesses are drained with computerised tomography-guided puncture. Emergency surgery is reserved for peritonitis, elective surgery for fistula/stenosis. Surgery to prevent recurrence is indicated only in selected cases (e.g. immune compromised).