Predictors of acute diverticulitis severity: A systematic review

Int J Surg. 2016 Feb:26:43-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ijsu.2016.01.005. Epub 2016 Jan 9.


Background: Diverticulitis is a common condition with a broad spectrum of disease severity. A scoring system has been proposed for diagnosing diverticulitis, and a number of scoring systems exist for predicting prognosis associated with severe complications of diverticulitis such as peritonitis. However, predicting disease severity has not received as much attention. Therefore, the aim of this review was to identify the factors that are predictive of severe acute diverticulitis.

Methods: A systematic literature search was performed using Medline, PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library to identify papers that evaluated factors predictive of severe diverticulitis. Severe diverticulitis was defined as complicated diverticulitis (associated with haemorrhage, abscess, phlegmon, perforation, purulent/faecal peritonitis, stricture, fistula, or small-bowel obstruction) or diverticulitis that resulted in prolonged hospital admission, surgical intervention or death.

Results: Twenty one articles were included. Studies were categorised into those that identified patient characteristics (n = 12), medications (n = 5), biochemical markers (n = 8) or imaging (n = 3) as predictors. Predictors for severe diverticulitis included first episode of diverticulitis, co-morbidities (Charlson score ≥ 3), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug use, steroid use, a high CRP on admission and severe disease on radiological imaging. Age and gender were not associated with disease severity.

Conclusion: A number of predictors exist for identifying severe diverticulitis, and CT remains the gold standard for diagnosing complicated disease. Patients who present with identified risk factors for severe disease warrant early imaging, closer in-patient observation and a lower threshold for early surgical intervention. Patients without these factors may be suitable for outpatient-based treatment.

Keywords: Acute; Diverticulitis; Predictors; Score; Severity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • Comorbidity
  • Diverticulitis / complications*
  • Diverticulitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Glucocorticoids
  • C-Reactive Protein