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J R Coll Surg Edinb. 2002 Apr;47(2):481-2, 484.

The natural history diverticular disease: is there a role for elective colectomy?

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  • 1Prince Charles Hospital, Merthyr Tydfil, Mid Glamorgan.



The natural history of colonic diverticular disease is unclear leading to a debate on the value of elective colectomy in preventing complications of the disease.


To assess whether the complications of diverticular disease requiring emergency surgery are related to previous episodes of diverticulitis and whether elective colectomy might prevent such complications.


A retrospective study was done on all patients admitted with complicated diverticular disease in two adjacent district general hospitals between 1995 and 2000. Information was collected on the details of management of the complications and past history of the investigations and treatment for diverticular disease in these patients.


A total of 108 patients were admitted with complicated diverticular disease. Ninety eight (91%) patients were admitted as an emergency for perforated diverticular disease and rectal bleeding. Ten patients were urgent admissions for fistulae and diverticular phlegmons. Ninety eight patients underwent a Hartmann's operation, two had a subtotal colectomy and 4 patients had a sigmoid colectomy. Thirty four (31.4%) patients died in hospital post-operatively. Of the 108 patients, only 28 (26%) patients were known to have diverticular disease previously. Only three (2.7%) patients had had an episode of acute diverticulitis before they presented with further complications.


Complications of diverticular disease occur de novo in the majority of patients who have no previous history of the disease. Further studies are needed to identify risk factors for complicated diverticular disease before adopting a policy of elective interval colectomy.

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