Many people don’t know they have diverticular disease, because they don’t have symptoms, but when an infection develops, the intense abdominal pain often sends them in search of emergency medical attention. Dr. Mark Schadt and Dr. Richard Conron, Jr. at General Surgical Care provide expert surgical care for severe diverticular disease. If you’d like more information about diverticular disease, please call their office in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or schedule an appointment online for a consultation.
Diverticula are small pouches that protrude out from a tubular structure like your gastrointestinal tract. They commonly occur in the large intestine, especially in the lower left side of your abdomen, where they’re called sigmoid diverticula.
Diverticula are caused by one or more of the following:
Diverticular disease refers to the presence of asymptomatic diverticula, as well as the potentially intense pain and serious complications that develop with diverticulitis.
Many adults have diverticula -- or diverticulum, if they only have one little pouch -- that never cause symptoms. Some people, however, develop diverticulitis, which is when a diverticulum becomes inflamed and infected.
The symptoms you’ll experience depend on the severity of the inflammation. You may have a general ache in your abdomen, or you can develop very severe abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower left quadrant.
Beyond pain, diverticulitis may cause fever, nausea, vomiting, urinary symptoms, and changes in stool. Severe cases of diverticulitis are dangerous because the intestine can form an abscess and become perforated, allowing infection to seep into your abdominal cavity.
Diverticular disease is diagnosed with a CT scan of the pelvis and abdomen:
Causes mild symptoms that are usually treated with oral antibiotics. Diverticulitis that’s managed with medication is estimated to recur in almost four out of 10 of patients.
Diverticulitis is complicated when an abscess, fistula, intestinal obstruction, or perforation are present.
Immediate surgery is required when a perforation or obstruction is present. You may also need surgery if you have:
A partial or segmental colectomy is surgery to remove the area affected by diverticulitis and reconnect the two ends of the colon. The surgeons at General Surgical Care may perform colectomy using standard open surgery, especially if there’s a perforation or severe disease.
Whenever possible, they do colectomy using laparoscopic surgery. This type of minimally-invasive surgery is performed through small incisions and using a video camera (the laparoscope) to get a magnified view of the surgery site.