The term 'diverticula' refers to these abnormal sac-like structures that sometimes form in the walls of the large intestine. When imaging procedures reveal the presence of these sac-like structures on the intestinal walls, one is diagnosed with diverticulosis. Diverticulitis is another medical condition that is characterized by the inflammation of these abnormal sacs. It is believed that such pouches may develop when the contents of the large intestine start putting pressure on the weak spots that may be present in the walls of the colon. Poor dietary habits is believed to be the main contributory factor for the development of weak spots in the colon.
Consumption of a low fiber diet causes constipation or the hardening of the stool, and those who are constipated often have to strain during the bowel movements. This leads to the development of weak spots in the walls of the colon, which in turn, makes one highly susceptible to diverticulosis. At times, the fecal matter may even get trapped inside these sacs, thereby resulting in a spurt in bacterial growth. This may lead to inflammation of the diverticula. Inflamed diverticula can have serious repercussions on one's health. Surgery may be recommended when the patient develops complications due to diverticulitis. Given below is some information on diverticulitis surgery procedure along with diverticulitis surgery complications.
The Need for Diverticulitis Surgery
As mentioned earlier, doctors recommend surgery as a part of diverticulitis treatment when drug therapy and lifestyle related changes are unable to alleviate symptoms of diverticulitis. While the common signs of diverticulitis include loss of appetite, nausea, bloating and abdominal discomfort, if left untreated, one may become susceptible to complications such as a generalized infection in the abdomen, bleeding, intestinal blockage, development of abscesses or perforations.
Complications that are associated with diverticulitis not only leave the patient in severe distress, but can also lead to life-threatening conditions. Under such circumstances, surgery may even become a necessity. The surgical treatment of diverticulitis involves the removal of the affected part of the colon, followed by reconnecting the ends of the colon. This procedure is referred to as a partial colectomy.
Under the traditional method, a big incision would be made in the abdomen to remove the diseased portion of the colon, whereas smaller incisions would suffice if the surgery is performed laparoscopically. The surgeon would insert a medical instrument that has a camera attached on its end (laparoscope). The visuals of internal organs on the video monitor guide the surgeons as they remove the diseased part of the colon and reconnect the ends of the colon.
Unfortunately, in a majority of cases, patients don't seek medical help until the condition worsens and turns into a medical emergency. Under such circumstances, two surgeries need to be performed. In the first operation, the abdominal cavity is cleaned and the diseased portion is removed. This is followed by a temporary colostomy. Colostomy involves the creation of an opening in the patient's abdomen. This opening is connected to the end of the colon, and a colostomy bag is attached to the opening. The stool passes from this opening into the disposable colostomy bag. The next surgery involves the rejoining of the ends of the colon. It is performed a few months after the first surgery.
Complications of Diverticulitis Surgery
As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection and bleeding. The risks are higher in case of traditional surgery, wherein the incision is quite large. Since the incision is large, it takes longer to heal and there may be considerable scarring. The patient would need to pay attention and ensure that there is no infection around the site of the incision. On the other hand, laparoscopic surgery being a minimally invasive procedure does lower the risks, however, one cannot completely rule out the risks associated with trauma to the surrounding organs during surgery.
One may also experience certain side effects due to the administration of general anesthesia. Administering general anesthesia induces a loss of consciousness in the patient, and helps the surgeons perform the procedure. The loss of sensation also helps the patient in dealing with the postoperative pain, however, it does pose certain risks. If the anesthetic agent is not flushed out of the body, one may experience untoward effects after surgery.
In rare cases, one may even develop an allergic reaction to the anesthetics. Serious risks associated with anesthesia include fluctuations in blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, breathing difficulty or an increase in the body temperature. The leakage of contents of the intestine through the sections of the intestine that were joined during the surgery is another complication that may arise post surgery. The possibility of recurrence of diverticulosis and diverticulitis after surgery cannot be completely ruled out, which is why, there is a great need to take precautionary measures after surgery.
While the patient is fed intravenously after the surgery, after one is discharged from the hospital, there's a great need to follow the dietary guidelines given by the doctor. One must follow a soft diet initially and refrain from consuming foods that may cause constipation. The colon will take some time to heal, and until that time, one must consume foods that are easily digestible. One must also refrain from indulging in strenuous activities as that may put stress on the incision, thereby making the duration of surgery recovery time, longer than the usual. Many of the complications that may arise after the surgery could actually result from noncompliance of the postoperative after care measures.
Since unhealthy dietary habits are the most common cause of diverticulosis as well as diverticulitis, the best way to prevent these conditions is to follow a healthy diet and make the right lifestyle choices. After all, prevention is better than cure.