Many people have a condition known as diverticulosis, which develops when pouches form in the wall of the colon. These pouches in the wall of the colon occur in areas where the wall of the colon have become weakened, and the pressure inside the large bowel pushes the interior wall of the colon out like a bubble.
Many people never know they have diverticulosis unless they develop diverticulitis, which occurs when these pouches become infected or inflamed, and a perforation of the diverticulum occurs. When the perforation occurs, contents of the colon can spill into the area outside of the colon causing inflammation, infection, abscesses and fistulas. Complicated diverticulitis refers to the presence of an abscess, fistula, obstruction, or perforation while simple diverticulitis refers to inflammation in the absence of these complications.
In Western countries, such as the United States, the most common complaint associated with diverticulitis is left lower quadrant pain. In fact, left lower quadrant pain occurs in approximately 70 percent of patients with diverticulitis. This is because the sigmoid colon is most often affected. A tender mass can usually be detected by the physician in about 20 percent of patients, and abdominal distention is quite common. In addition, patient with diverticulitis commonly have a low-grade fever and mild leukocytosis (elevated white blood cell count).
If you have a suspected episode of diverticulitis, your doctor may place you on a course of antibiotics to clear up the infection. Once the infection is gone, the extent and the severity of the diverticulosis/diverticulitis needs to be evaluated. The preferred diagnostic test for diverticulitis is Computed Tomography (CT) scanning. It can be used to diagnosis the severity of the disease and guide possible therapeutic interventions. CT features of acute diverticulitis include:
- Increased soft tissue density due to inflammation — 98 percent of cases
- Colonic diverticula — 84 percent of cases
- Bowel wall thickening — 70 percent of cases
- Soft tissue masses representing phlegmons, and pericolic fluid collections, representing abscesses — 35 percent of cases
CT can also identify the major complications of diverticulitis, including peritonitis, fistula formation and obstruction.
In a small number of cases, diverticulitis can necessitate surgery to remove part of the colon. If too much of the colon is removed, this may create significant and unnecessary problems for the patient. In addition, diverticulitis may go undiagnosed and untreated with the patient going on to suffer from a significant intra-abdominal infection, peritonitis and possible sepsis or septic shock. For a specific example of a diverticulitis and colon removal case recently handled by Hixson & Brown, you can read more.
If you believe that you suffered from diverticulitis that went undiagnosed, untreated or perhaps was improperly treated, you should call the lawyers at Hixson & Brown, P.C. Our Des Moines, Iowa, medical malpractice lawyer handle bowel and colon injury cases such as diverticulitis.