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Diverticulitis Complications

Diverticulitis Complications

Diverticulitis is a condition of the large intestine characterised by symptoms such as severe abdominal pain and fever. It develops when area of the sigmoid colon (located just above the rectum) weaken, usually as a result of high pressure generated by contraction of the muscles.

This weakening causes small pouches known as 'diverticula' to stick out of the side of the colon. This is a very common occurrence in people over 60, and often will not lead to any problems whatsoever. However, if symptoms such as stomach pain and a bloated sensation arise, a diagnosis of diverticular disease will be made. Patients will subsequently be treated with paracetamol and advised to increase the fibre in their diet.

Diverticular disease can then progress into diverticulitis, whereby the diverticula become infected and inflamed. This will result in more extreme symptoms, and can also lead to serious health complications if the appropriate treatment is not provided.

Health Complications of Diverticulitis

If a patient develops diverticulitis, medical professionals must decide upon the most suitable course of treatment. This will vary from case to case, but may involve antibiotics to treat the infection, surgery to remove the affected area of the colon (called a colectomy) and stoma surgery.

Nevertheless, the NHS estimates that one in five patients with diverticulitis will experience complications. Some of the most common include:-

1. Abscess

On-going inflammation can lead to the formation of an abscess, which is a pus-filled lump in the tissue. This must be drained with a fine needle until all the pus is removed. Otherwise additional problems such as a fistula can occur.

2. Fistula

If an abscess bursts or is not properly treated, the pus will discharge through the tissue, eventually causing a hole to develop. This will result in an abnormal channel between two parts of your body something known as a fistula. Anal and colovesical fistulas are commonly associated with diverticulitis, both of which will give rise to problems such as recurrent urinary tract infections.

3. Rupture

It is possible for the diverticula to spontaneously rupture. This will cause the infection to spread into your abdominal cavity, a condition called peritonitis. This can be life-threatening, and emergency treatment is needed.

4. Intestinal blockage

All of the above complications can badly scar the colon, which will in turn cause an intestinal blockage. This will lead to a build-up of waste products which, if left untreated, will cause the colon to decay and weaken. This will eventually lead the colon to rupture, triggering the aforementioned complication of peritonitis.

Diverticulitis and Medical Negligence

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer complications as a result of diverticulitis, you need to consider who (if anyone) is responsible for your pain and suffering. Occasionally complications such as the ones described above are unavoidable, and nothing can be done to prevent them occurring.

However, it is possible that your poor health can be directly attributed to medical error. For example, if a diagnosis was not made in a timely fashion or treatment was significantly delayed, you may be the victim of a substandard level of care. If so, you will be entitled to make a compensation claim. A medical negligence solicitor will be able to confirm whether or not this applies to you.

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