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Diverticular Disease Services at UPMC in Central Pa.

The colon and rectal specialists at UPMC in Central Pa. provide personalized surgical and nonsurgical treatment for diverticular disease and related complications.

Why choose UPMC for diverticular disease treatment?

At UPMC, our colon and rectal care specialists provide expert diagnosis and personalized treatment for diverticular disease. Whether you need surgical or nonsurgical treatment, we take a team approach to your care. We work closely with other medical specialists — including family doctors, gastroenterologists, and registered dietitians — to prevent complications, improve your quality of life, and provide you with comprehensive diverticular disease treatment.

What is diverticular disease?

Diverticular disease occurs when small pouches or sacs (called diverticulae) develop in weakened areas on the wall of your colon. The presence of these pouches is called diverticulosis. When the pouches become inflamed, the condition is called diverticulitis.

Although diverticulosis does not usually cause symptoms, complications can sometimes develop. The most common complication, called diverticulitis, occurs when the pouches become inflamed and infected. If diverticulitis is left untreated, it can lead to other complications, such as a fistula or bowel obstruction. Other more serious complications of diverticulosis include perforation and severe infection of your abdominal cavity or the wall of your colon.

Diverticular bleeding is another complication that occurs when blood vessels next to the diverticula become damaged or weakened.

How is diverticular disease treated?

Our experts use leading-edge technology and techniques to diagnose and treat diverticular disease and related complications. We offer a full range of tests and treatments, including:

Diagnostic Tests for Diverticulitis

  • Colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is a 20-30-minute outpatient procedure. It allows your doctor to see and examine the inside of your entire colon. The procedure usually is performed while you are under anesthesia.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may order a CT scan or other imaging tests to check your gastrointestinal tract for signs of diverticular disease.

Nonsurgical Treatments for Diverticulitis

  • Dietary planning. Your doctor may recommend following a special diet to help manage your condition. In addition to providing you with information about your dietary plan, your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian for nutritional support.
  • Medications. Your doctor will work closely with you, your gastroenterologist, and your family doctor to develop and coordinate your treatment plan, which may include medications to control inflammation, reduce symptoms, or treat infection.

Surgical Procedures for Diverticulitis

Our board-certified colon and rectal surgeons use open, laparoscopic, and robotic surgical techniques. The focus is to preserve natural bowel function and avoid the need for a colostomy. Our surgeons will use minimally invasive techniques whenever possible to shorten your recovery time, decrease pain, and improve outcomes.

Surgical procedures to treat diverticular disease include:

  • Colectomy. A colectomy removes part of your colon. Colectomies can be performed using traditional open techniques or laparoscopically using tiny instruments inserted into several small incisions in your abdomen. If necessary, your doctor may also perform a colostomy, which reroutes stool through a stoma, or an opening in your abdomen, where it is collected in a bag.

What are the symptoms of diverticular disease?

Diverticulosis does not usually cause symptoms. However, diverticulitis may cause symptoms including:

  • Diarrhea alternating with constipation
  • Lower abdominal pain or cramping
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Diverticular bleeding may cause bright red rectal bleeding. The bleeding is usually painless but may be heavy. You may also experience lightheadedness or dizziness.

Who is at risk for diverticular disease?

Researchers believe that diverticula form when there is increased pressure on the colon, which can be caused by constipation. If you experience frequent constipation or straining during bowel movements, you may be at a higher risk of developing diverticular disease.

Diverticular disease is most common in people older than age 60. Eating a low-fiber diet that is high in red meat and fat can increase your risk of developing diverticular disease. People who smoke, are obese, or do not exercise regularly may be more likely to experience symptoms.

How can I prevent diverticular disease?

Maintaining good bowel habits can lower your risk of developing diverticular disease. Eating a diet rich in fiber, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly can promote regular bowel movements and help you avoid constipation and straining.

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