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Classification & external resources
ICD-10 K57.
ICD-9 562
DiseasesDB 3876
MedlinePlus 000257
eMedicine med/578 

Diverticulitis is a common digestive disease particularly found in the large intestine. Diverticulitis develops from diverticulosis, which involves the formation of pouches (diverticula) on the outside of the colon. Diverticulitis results if one of these diverticula becomes inflamed.



The development of colonic diverticulum is thought to be a result of raised intraluminal colonic pressures. The sigmoid colon (Section 4) has the smallest diameter of any portion of the colon, and therefore the portion which would be expected to have the highest intraluminal pressure. The postulate that low dietary fiber, particularly non-soluble fiber (also known in older parlance as "roughage") predisposes individuals to diverticular disease is supported within the medical literature.[citation needed]

It is thought that mechanical blockage of a diverticulum, possibly by a piece of feces or food particles, leads to infection of the diverticulum.[citation needed]


Patients often present with the classic triad of left lower quadrant pain, fever, and leukocytosis (an elevation of the white cell count in blood tests). Patients may also complain of nausea or diarrhea; others may be constipated.

Less commonly, an individual with diverticulitis may present with right-sided abdominal pain. This may be due to the less prevalent right-sided diverticula or a very redundant sigmoid colon.



The most common symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain. The most common sign is tenderness around the left side of the lower abdomen. If infection is the cause, fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation may occur as well. The severity of symptoms depends on the extent of the infection and complications.


Most people with diverticulosis do not have any discomfort or symptoms. However, symptoms may include mild cramps, bloating, and constipation. Other diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach ulcers cause similar problems, so these symptoms do not always mean a person has diverticulosis.


The differential diagnosis includes colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, ischemic colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome, as well as a number of urological and gynecological processes. Some patients report bleeding from the rectum.

Patients with the above symptoms are commonly studied with a computed tomography, or CT scan.[1] The CT scan is very sensitive (98%) in diagnosing diverticulitis. It may also identify patients with more complicated diverticulitis, such as those with an associated abscess. CT also allows for radiologically guided drainage of associated abscesses, possibly sparing a patient from immediate surgical intervention.

Other studies, such as barium enema and colonoscopy are contraindicated in the acute phase of diverticulitis due to the risk of perforation.


An initial episode of acute diverticulitis is usually treated with conservative medical management, including bowel rest (ie, nothing by mouth), IV fluid resuscitation, and broad-spectrum antibiotics which cover anaerobic bacteria and gram-negative rods. However, recurring acute attacks or complications, such as peritonitis, abscess, or fistula may require surgery, either immediately or on an elective basis.

Upon discharge patients may be placed on a low residue diet. This low-fiber diet gives the colon adequate time to heal without needing to be overworked. Later, patients are placed on a high-fiber diet. There is some evidence this lowers the recurrence rate.

In some cases surgery may be required to remove the area of the colon with the diverticula. Patients suffering their first attack of diverticulitis are typically not encouraged to undergo the surgery, unless the case is severe. Patients suffering repeated episodes may benefit from the surgery. In such cases the risks of complications from the diverticulitis outweigh the risks of complications from surgery.


In complicated diverticulitis, bacteria may subsequently infect the outside of the colon if an inflamed diverticulum bursts open. If the infection spreads to the lining of the abdominal cavity, (peritoneum), this can cause a potentially fatal peritonitis. Sometimes inflamed diverticula can cause narrowing of the bowel, leading to an obstruction. Also, the affected part of the colon could adhere to the bladder or other organ in the pelvic cavity, causing a fistula, or abnormal connection between an organ and adjacent structure or organ, in this case the colon and an adjacent organ.


Diverticulitis most often affects middle-aged and elderly persons, though it can strike younger patients as well.[2] Abdominal obesity may be associated with diverticulitis in younger patients, with some being as young as 20 years old.[3]

In Western countries, diverticular disease most commonly involves the sigmoid colon - section 4 - (95% of patients). The prevalence of diverticular disease has increased from an estimated 10% in the 1920s to between 35 and 50% by the late 1960s. 65% of those currently 85 years of age and older can be expected to have some form of diverticular disease of the colon. Less than 5% of those aged 40 years and younger may also be affected by diverticular disease.

Left-sided diverticular disease (involving the sigmoid colon) is most common in the West, while right-sided diverticular disease is more prevalent in Asia and Africa. Among patients with diverticulosis, 10-25% patients will go on to develop diverticulitis within their lifetimes.

Peanuts and seeds may aggravate diverticulitis.[4]

Famous sufferers

  • Grace Slick, rock goddess
  • John Wooden, Basketball Coach[5]
  • Billy Graham, evangelist
  • Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba (reported)
  • James K. Polk, 11th President of the United States
  • Ken Griffey Jr., baseball player
  • Kwame Kilpatrick, Mayor of Detroit (2002-present)
  • Craig Venter
  • Dilma Rousseff
  • Amitabh Bachchan
  • "Buzz Burbank", news man of the nationally syndicated Don and Mike Show.
  • Desi Arnaz, Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy
  • Glenn Frey, The Eagles
  • Buckminster Fuller ate mostly steak, in response to a tendency to diverticulitis. [6]
  • Cher

Cultural references

  • The Whiners, recurring characters on Saturday Night Live.

Dee-tee Dennes


  1. ^ Lee KH, Lee HS, Park SH, et al (2007). "Appendiceal diverticulitis: diagnosis and differentiation from usual acute appendicitis using computed tomography". Journal of computer assisted tomography 31 (5): 763–9. doi:10.1097/RCT.0b013e3180340991. PMID 17895789.
  2. ^ Cole CD, Wolfson AB (2007). "Case Series: Diverticulitis in the Young". J Emerg Med. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.02.022. PMID 17976749.
  3. ^ Disease Of Older Adults Now Seen In Young, Obese Adults. Retrieved on 2007-11-19.
  4. ^ Avoid Certain Foods To Prevent Diverticulitis - Health News Story - KNSD. Retrieved on 2007-11-19.
  5. ^ ESPN - Wooden OK after hospital stay during NCAA final - Men's College Basketball. Retrieved on 2007-11-25.
  6. ^ Applewhite, E. J. (1977). Cosmic fishing: an account of writing Synergetics with Buckminster Fuller. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-02-502710-7. 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Diverticulitis". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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