Background: The best way to manage generalized peritonitis complicating sigmoid diverticulitis is controversial. This randomized clinical trial involved a comparison of primary resection and suture, drainage with proximal colostomy followed by secondary resection.
Methods: From January 1989 to December 1996, 105 patients of mean(s.d.) age 66(14) (range 32-91) years were randomized to undergo primary or secondary resection. The main endpoint was occurrence of generalized or localized postoperative peritonitis. The Mannheim Peritonitis Index score was calculated for each patient to check for comparability of groups.
Results: Postoperative peritonitis occurred less often after primary than secondary resection whether considering the first procedure only (one of 55 patients versus ten of 48; P < 0.01) or all procedures (one of 55 versus 12 of 48; P < 0.001). Likewise, early reoperation was performed less often following primary resection than secondary resection (two of 55 versus nine of 48 (P < 0.02) and two versus 11 (P < 0.01)), leading to a shorter median first hospital stay for patients having primary resection (15 days) than for those undergoing secondary resection (24 days) (P < 0.05). The mortality rate did not differ significantly with regard to operative policy (primary resection 24 per cent versus secondary resection 19 per cent) or type of peritonitis (faeculent 27 per cent versus purulent 19 per cent). No patient died following a second or third procedure.
Conclusion: Primary resection is superior to secondary resection in the treatment of generalized peritonitis complicating sigmoid diverticulitis because of significantly less postoperative peritonitis, fewer reoperations and shorter hospital stay.