Anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and the risk of perforated colonic diverticular disease

Br J Surg. 2003 Oct;90(10):1267-72. doi: 10.1002/bjs.4221.


Background: Acute perforated colonic diverticular disease has a mortality rate of up to 30 per cent, but little is known about its aetiology. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that three classes of drugs, namely non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioid analgesics and corticosteroids, are risk factors for perforated diverticular disease.

Methods: All patients with confirmed perforated colonic diverticular disease were identified over a 5-year period in two hospitals in Norfolk, UK. Two control groups were selected and matched for age, sex and hospital of admission. Data on medication use were obtained from hospital records. Odds ratios for each drug were calculated using conditional logistic regression.

Results: Opioid analgesics, NSAIDs and corticosteroids were all positively associated with perforated colonic diverticular disease. The odds ratio for opioid analgesics was 1.8 (95 per cent confidence interval (c.i.) 1.1 to 3.0) in the analysis with ophthalmology controls and 3.1 (95 per cent c.i. 1.8 to 5.5) in that with dermatology controls. Respective odds ratios for NSAIDs were 4.0 (95 per cent c.i. 2.1 to 7.6) and 3.7 (95 per cent c.i. 2.0 to 6.8), and those for corticosteroids were 5.7 (95 per cent c.i. 2.2 to 14.4) and 7.8 (95 per cent c.i. 2.6 to 23.3).

Conclusion: Opioid analgesics, NSAIDs and corticosteroids are all positively associated with perforated colonic diverticular disease. The consistency of these associations, together with plausible biological mechanisms, suggests that these drugs may have a causative role in this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Diverticulum, Colon / chemically induced*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Perforation / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Factors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal