Danish national guidelines for treatment of diverticular disease

Dan Med J. 2012 May;59(5):C4453.


In order to elaborate evidence-based, national Danish guidelines for the treatment of diverticular disease the literature was reviewed concerning the epidemiology, staging, diagnosis and treatment of diverticular disease in all its aspects. The presence of colonic diverticula, which is considered to be a mucosal herniation through the intestinal muscle wall, is inversely correlated to the intake of dietary fibre. Other factors in the genesis of diverticular disease may be physical inactivity, obesity, and use of NSAIDs or acetaminophen. Diverticulosis is most common in Western countries with a prevalence of 5% in the population aged 30-39 years and 60% in the part of the population > 80 years. The incidence of hospitalization for acute diverticulitis is 71/100,000 and the incidence of complicated diverticulitis is 3.5-4/100,000. Acute diverticulitis is conveniently divided into uncomplicated and complicated diverticulitis. Complicated diverticulitis is staged by the Hinchey classification 1-4 (1: mesocolic/pericolic abscess, 2: pelvic abscess, 3: purulent peritonitis, 4: faecal peritonitis). Diverticulitis is suspected in case of lower left quadrant abdominal pain and tenderness associated with fever and raised WBC and/or CRP; but the clinical diagnosis is not sufficiently precise. Abdominal CT confirms the diagnosis and enables the classification of the disease according to Hinchey. The distinction between Hinchey 3 and 4 is done by laparoscopy or, when not possible, by laparotomy. Uncomplicated diverticulitis is treated by conservative means. There is no evidence of any beneficial effect of antibiotics in uncomplicated diverticulitis, but antibiotics may be used in selected cases depending on the overall condition of the patients and the severity of the infection. Abscess formation is best treated by US- or CT-guided drainage in combination with antibiotics. When the abscess is < 3 cm in diameter, drainage may be unnecessary, and only antibiotics should be instituted. The surgical treatment of acute perforated diverticulitis has interchanged between resection and non-resection strategies: The three-stage procedure dominating in the beginning of the 20th century was later replaced by the Hartmann procedure or, alternatively, resection of the sigmoid with primary anastomosis. Lately a non-resection strategy consisting of laparoscopy with peritoneal lavage and drainage has been introduced in the treatment of Hinchey stage 3 disease. Evidence so far for the lavage regime is promising, comparing favourably with resection strategies, but lacking in solid proof by randomized, controlled investigations. In recent years, morbidity has declined in complicated diverticulitis due to improved diagnostics and new treatment modalities. Recurrent diverticulitis is relatively rare and furthermore often uncomplicated than previously assumed. Elective surgery in diverticular disease should probably be limited to symptomatic cases not amenable to conservative measures, since prophylactic resection of the sigmoid, evaluated from present evidence, confers unnecessary risks in terms of morbidity and mortality to the individual as well as unnecessary costs to society. Any recommendation for routine resection following multiple cases of diverticulitis should await results of randomized studies. Laparoscopic resection is preferred in case of need for elective surgery. When malignancy is ruled out preoperatively, a sigmoid resection with preservation of the inferior mesenteric artery, oral division of colon in soft compliant tissue and anastomosis to upper rectum is recommended. Fistulae to bladder or vagina, or stenosis of the colon may be dealt with according to symptoms and comorbidity. Resection of the diseased segment of colon is preferred when possible and safe; alternatively, a diverting stoma can be the best solution.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Abscess / etiology
  • Abdominal Abscess / therapy
  • Acute Disease
  • Chronic Disease
  • Denmark
  • Developing Countries
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / diagnosis
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / epidemiology
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / etiology
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / therapy*
  • Diverticulosis, Colonic / epidemiology
  • Diverticulosis, Colonic / etiology
  • Elective Surgical Procedures
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Perforation / etiology
  • Intestinal Perforation / surgery
  • Laparoscopy
  • Recurrence