What is diverticulosis?

Also known as diverticular disease, diverticulosis is a condition where small bulges or pouches form in the bowel lining and become inflamed or infected. While they can develop in any part of the gut, they appear most often in the left side of the large bowel (colon).

The condition is particularly common as people get older. Approximately one in three people in their 60s and half of all 80-year-olds will have these pouches in their colon. Men and women are equally affected.

What are the symptoms?

Most people who develop diverticulae never realise, as they have no symptoms. However, some people may experience bloating and/or cramping pain in the abdomen and a change in bowel habits.

However, when diverticulae become inflamed or infected, the symptoms can become more serious. These include: 

  • Pain in the abdomen (usually left sided)
  • Fever
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Blood mixed in the stool

If the infection is particularly severe, patients may develop an abscess. In rare occasions diverticular disease can also lead to a perforation of the bowel, or severe bleeding within the gut.

Will I need surgery?

We’ll discuss all the options with you, but surgery can be a good option if:

  • Your diverticulitis is particularly acute
  • You haven’t  responded to more conservative therapies, such as antibiotics
  • You’re experiencing recurrent bouts of the infection
  • You have complications, such as a perforated bowel

What operation will I need?

If your condition is particularly acute and hasn’t respond to more conservative treatments, we’ll often suggest a colectomy. This is an operation to remove the affected section of the colon.

Once the diseased section is removed, we’ll join the two ends of the bowel together (anastomosed), meaning food can pass through your body as normal.

In very rare cases, if the infection is particularly severe, or if there are concerns about joining the ends of bowel together, we might need to bring the bowel out to the abdominal wall and attach a bag via a stoma.

The operation can be done in two ways. The first is via the abdomen, through a long cut in the skin (a laparotomy). The second is using a keyhole procedure, either a laparoscopy or robotically assisted surgery.

We believe that, by performing these operations robotically, we greatly increase the chances of success, while reducing the need for large incisions in the abdomen. This means a quicker postoperative recovery and fewer instances of stoma procedures.

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