Understanding Diverticulitis Surgery

September 10,2020 |
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Your body’s digestive tract works to absorb nutrients from the food you eat and deliver them to your body. Sometimes, things can go wrong, and cause problems. This is what happens with cases of diverticulitis. Diverticula are small, bulging pouches that can form in the lining of your digestive system.1 While they’re fairly common and don’t always cause problems, they can become inflamed and infected.1 When this happens, it’s called diverticulitis. Diverticulitis can lead to severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, changes in your bowel movements, and an overall disruption to daily life.1 While mild diverticulitis can resolve on its own with rest and lifestyle changes, antibiotics are often prescribed as a backup. Unfortunately, in severe cases of diverticulitis, or in circumstances where diverticulitis reoccurs, your doctor will likely recommend diverticulitis surgery. In this article, we’ll give you all of the information to better understand diverticulitis surgery.


Understanding Diverticulitis

Before talking about diverticulitis surgery, it’s important to understand the symptoms, risk factors, causes, preventable actions, and complications that occur with diverticulitis.


One of the most notable symptoms of diverticulitis is pain. The pain is often constant and persists for several days on the lower left side of the abdomen.1 The pain can also occur on the right side. This pain is accompanied with nausea and vomiting, fever, abdominal tenderness, constipation, or in some cases, diarrhea.1 If you have any symptoms of diverticulitis, contact your doctor immediately.

Risk Factors

While diverticulitis can happen to anyone, you’re more likely to experience it if you are older, obese, smoke, live a sedentary lifestyle, take certain medications, and eat a diet high in animal fat and low in fiber.1


The cause of diverticula is weakened areas along your colon that are put under pressure.1 This pressure leads to pouches that protrude through the colon wall.1 When the pouches (diverticula) are torn, inflamed, or infected, diverticulitis occurs.1


When left untreated, diverticulitis can cause complications such as abscesses, blockages in your bowel, abnormal passageways (fistulas) between organs, and peritonitis—a medical emergency that requires immediate care.1

Preventing Diverticulitis

If you want to be proactive and prevent diverticulitis, make sure to exercise at least 30 minutes on most days, quit smoking, drink plenty of fluids, and increase your fiber intake.1 For more information on preventing diverticulitis, talk to your doctor today.

When to Have Diverticulitis Surgery

If you have a severe case of diverticulitis, surgery should be performed. There are instances of diverticulitis that are life-threatening, so rest and lifestyles changes will not be sufficient. Aside from the pain, it can be damaging to your vital organs and lead to further complications or problems. Your doctor will likely recommend diverticulitis surgery if you:2

  • Have multiple severe episodes of diverticulitis that are unable to be controlled with medications or lifestyle changes
  • Experience rectal bleeding
  • Have intense pain in your abdomen for a few days or more
  • Experience constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting that doesn’t go away within a day or so
  • Have a blockage in your colon that keeps you from passing waste
  • Have a hole in your colon
  • Show signs or symptoms of sepsis

Different Types of Diverticulitis Surgery

There are two different types of diverticulitis surgery options, bowel resection with primary anastomosis and bowel resection with colostomy. Your doctor will perform a thorough evaluation and make a recommendation based on where the diverticulitis is, how severe it is, and how many diverticula are present. Both surgeries can be done either open or laparoscopically. Laparoscopic surgery uses small cuts, cameras, and small tubes to perform the procedure while open surgery requires a large incision in your abdomen so that your intestines can be viewed in entirety.

Bowel Resection with Primary Anastomosis

Your surgeon will remove any parts or pieces of the infected colon in an effort to save the organ (colectomy).2 After the affected areas are removed, the healthy parts of your colon are sewn together from either side of the previously infected area (anastomosis).2 This will allow you to retain function of your colon and will not result in an ostomy bag.

Bowel Resection with Colostomy

In this procedure, your surgeon will remove any infected colon, but will then connect your bowel through an opening in your abdomen called a stoma.2 This procedure is known as a colostomy and will result in an ostomy bag. This is only done if there is too much damaged colon tissue to retain full use of your bowels. Depending on recovery, the colostomy can be either permanent or temporary.

Risks and Complications of Diverticulitis Surgery

Every surgery carries a certain amount of risk, but they’re done because the benefits outweigh the risks. In diverticulitis surgery, your risks tend to increase if you’re obese, over the age of 60, have underlying medical conditions like diabetes, have had diverticulitis surgery or other abdominal surgery in the past, are in poor health overall, or are having an emergency surgery.2 Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and make sure that you fully understand your risks prior to undergoing surgery.

Post-surgical complications are also possible with diverticulitis surgery. Some of the main complications include the following:2

  • Blood clots
  • Infection at the incision site
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Sepsis
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Respiratory failure
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Narrowing or blockage of your colon from scar tissue
  • Formation of an abscess near the colon
  • Leaking from area of anastomosis
  • Nearby organ damage
  • Incontinence

If you’re having diverticulitis surgery, make sure you talk to your doctor about all of the possible complications and understand what your risks are. Since the surgery is invasive, you will need to spend up to a week in the hospital, where your recovery can be monitored to reduce the chance of any serious complication.

Preparing for Your Diverticulitis Surgery

When preparing for your diverticulitis surgery, your doctor will have you do a few things to get ready. Remember that all of these will help you lower your chances of any risks or complications, so it’s important to take them seriously. First, you will need to stop taking any medications that can thin your blood.2 Blood thinners cause major problems during surgery. It’s also important that at least a few weeks before your surgery, you stop smoking. While it’d be beneficial to your health for you to permanently quit, you can resume smoking after recovery. If you come down with any illness leading up to the surgery, tell your doctor. He or she will likely postpone until you’re better. Finally, a few weeks before your surgery you should start to slowly replace most of your diets with liquid and take laxatives to empty your bowels.2 If you have any questions, talk to your doctor. If your doctor provides different instructions, always follow their recommendation.

When you get down to 24 hours pre-surgery, you should only drink water or other clear liquids and avoid eating anything up to 12 hours before the surgery.2 Make sure that you follow your doctor’s plan and if needed, take any medications that your surgeon gives you right before surgery.2 

Recovering from Diverticulitis Surgery

It’s going to take about two weeks to fully recover from diverticulitis surgery, so make sure that you take off work and get any other responsibilities covered. For the first two to seven days, you’ll be recovering in the hospital so that doctors and nurses can monitor your progress.2

When it’s time to go home, avoid exercising or lifting heavy objects for at least two weeks after you’ve left the hospital. You also need to abstain from having sex for the same amount of time. Depending on your surgery and how you recovered while in the hospital, your doctor may recommend longer or shorter periods of time for these restrictions.2

You should stick to clear liquids at first and slowly reintroduce solid foods after your doctor has instructed that it’s safe to do so. Make sure you eat high fiber foods and avoid processed, high fat, fast foods that can cause harm to your colon.

If you received a colostomy and have an ostomy bag, your doctor and ostomy nurse will teach you how to use it and how to care for your stoma. Make sure that you continue to follow these instructions later on and call your doctor if you have any questions or problems with your pouching system once you’ve returned home.


If you need diverticulitis surgery, make sure you talk to your doctor about any concerns you might have. If the surgery results in an ostomy, don’t worry. There are plenty of great pouches that help you lead a normal life and maintain your privacy. To get the most out of your ostomy, always opt for high-quality, medical grade ostomy supplies. You’ll need ostomy pouches, ostomy flanges, stoma powder, and skin prep essentials to get the most out of your ostomy skin care. At Byram Healthcare, we’re committed to helping improve the life of people living with an ostomy and offer a wide range of ostomy supplies, ostomy bags, and support systems. Learn how you can get started by viewing our ostomy product catalog.


1 https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diverticulitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371758

2 https://www.healthline.com/health/diverticulitis-surgery#procedure