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Long-term outcome of conservative treatment in patients with diverticulitis of the sigmoid colon

Mueller, M.H.a; Glatzle, J.b; Kasparek, M.S.b; Becker, H.D.b; Jehle, E.C.b; Zittel, T.T.b; Kreis, Martin E.a

European Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology: June 2005 - Volume 17 - Issue 6 - p 649-654
Original Articles: Colonic Diverticular Disease

Introduction The indication for surgery after conservative treatment of acute diverticulitis is still under debate. This is partly as a result of limited data on the outcome of conservative management in the long run. We therefore aimed to determine the long-term results of conservative treatment for acute diverticulitis.

Methods The records of all patients treated at our institution for diverticulitis between 1985 and 1991 were reviewed (n=363, median age 64 years, range 29–93). Patients who received conservative treatment were interviewed in 1996 and 2002 [follow-up time 7 years 2 months (range 58–127 months) and 13 years 4 months (range 130–196 months).

Results A total of 252 patients (69%) were treated conservatively, whereas 111 (31%) were operated on. At the first follow-up, 85 patients treated conservatively had died, one of them from bleeding diverticula. A recurrence of symptoms was reported by 78 of the remaining 167 patients, and 13 underwent sugery. At the second follow-up, one patient had died from sepsis after perforation during another episode of diverticulitis. Thirty-one of the 85 patients interviewed reported symptoms and 12 had been operated on. In summary, at the second follow-up interview, 34% of patients treated initially had had a recurrence and 10% had undergone surgery. No predictive factors for the recurrence of symptoms or later surgery could be determined.

Conclusion Despite a high rate of recurrences after conservative treatment of acute diverticulitis, lethal complications are rare. Surgery should thus mainly be undertaken to achieve relief of symptoms rather than to prevent death from complications.

aDepartment of Surgery, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich-Grosshadern, Germany

bDepartment of General Surgery, University of Tuebingen, Germany

Correspondence to Martin E. Kreis, MD, Department of Surgery, Hospital ‘Grosshadern’, Ludwig Maximilians University, Marchioninistrasse 15, 81377 Munich, Germany

Tel: +49 089 7095 2790; fax: +49 089 7095 8893;


Received 17 November 2004 Accepted 25 February 2005

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.