Diverticular Disease

Complicated diverticulitis results when the abscess is not contained and the bacteria and stool spread into the abdominal cavity.

What is diverticular disease (Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis)?


  • A very common condition which increases with age
  • Frequently, little pouches (mini-hernias) of the inner layer of the colon are forced through the muscular layer. These pouches are called “colonic diverticuli”. If more than one is present then we call this condition “diverticulosis”.
  • Diverticulosis causes no symptoms so most people are unaware that they have it.
  • It only becomes a “disease” when it causes symptoms
  • When the diverticulosis becomes inflamed causing pain it is called diverticulitis

What causes diverticulosis?

The cause is most likely related to a low-fibre and high fat diet typical of the average Australian. It is rarely seen in places like Africa. Most commonly diverticulosis is diagnosed when an examination of the bowel (colonoscopy) is performed for other reasons or for screening. No specific therapy is required although it is generally recommended that people have a high fibre diet to reduce progression and complications. It is not a reversible condition.

What are the complications of diverticular disease?

  1. Diverticulitis or inflammation
  2. Diverticular bleeding
  3. Perforation
  4. Strictures

What is diverticulitis?

The word “diverticulitis” literally means infection of a diverticulum. Diverticulitis is unpredictable and usually occurs infrequently. Rarely it can lead to other complications such as bleeding, abscess formation, perforation  or rupture into adjacent organs (fistula).

Symptoms include:

  • Left sided abdominal pain and tenderness
  • Fevers/chills/shakes
  • Night sweats
  • Nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness

Usually uncomplicated diverticulitis resolves by itself although antibiotics will speed up recovery time. Some patients with severe pain may require admission to hospital but surgery is rarely required. Symptoms can persist for several weeks.

Complicated diverticulitis usually requires hospital admission, antibiotics, and, often, surgical intervention.