When is surgery necessary for diverticulitis?
If symptoms of diverticulitis are frequent, or the patient does not respond to antibiotics and resting the colon, the doctor may advise surgery. The surgeon removes the affected part of the colon and joins the remaining sections. This type of surgery—called colon resection—aims to prevent complications and future diverticulitis. The doctor may also recommend surgery for complications such as a fistula or partial intestinal obstruction.
Immediate surgery may be necessary when the patient has other complications, such as perforation, a large abscess, peritonitis, complete intestinal obstruction, or severe bleeding. In these cases, two surgeries may be needed because it is not safe to rejoin the colon right away. During the first surgery, the surgeon cleans the infected abdominal cavity, removes the portion of the affected colon, and performs a temporary colostomy, creating an opening, or stoma, in the abdomen. The end of the colon is connected to the opening to allow normal eating while healing occurs. Stool is collected in a pouch attached to the stoma. In the second surgery several months later, the surgeon rejoins the ends of the colon and closes the stoma.