Colonoscopy-induced acute diverticulitis: myth or reality?

Surg Endosc. 2018 Jul;32(7):3290-3294. doi: 10.1007/s00464-018-6049-8. Epub 2018 Jan 17.


Background: Colonoscopy in patients with diverticulosis can be technically challenging and limited data exist relating to the risk of post-colonoscopy diverticulitis. Our aim was to evaluate the incidence, management, and outcomes of acute diverticulitis following colonoscopy.

Methods: Study design is retrospective cohort study. Data were gathered by conducting an automated search of the electronic patient database using current procedural terminology and ICD-9 codes. Patients who underwent a colonoscopy from 2003 to 2012 were reviewed to find patients who developed acute diverticulitis within 30 days after colonoscopy. Patient demographics and colonoscopy-related outcomes were documented, which include interval between colonoscopy and diverticulitis, colonoscopy indication, simultaneous colonoscopic interventions, and follow-up after colonoscopy.

Results: From 236,377 colonoscopies performed during the study period, 68 patients (mean age 56 years) developed post-colonoscopy diverticulitis (0.029%; 2.9 per 10,000 colonoscopies). Incomplete colonoscopies were more frequent among patients with a history of previous diverticulitis [n = 10 (29%) vs. n = 3 (9%), p = 0.03]. Mean time to develop diverticulitis after colonoscopy was 12 ± 8 days, and 30 (44%) patients required hospitalization. 34 (50%) patients had a history of diverticulitis prior to colonoscopy. Among those patients, 14 underwent colonoscopy with an indication of surveillance for previous disease. When colonoscopy was performed within 6 weeks of a diverticulitis attack, surgical intervention was required more often when compared with colonoscopies performed after 6 weeks of an acute attack [n = 6 (100%) vs. n = 10 (36%), p = 0.006]. 6 (9%) out of 68 patients received emergency surgical treatment. 15 (24%) out of 62 patients who had non-surgical treatment initially underwent an elective sigmoidectomy at a later date. Recurrent diverticulitis developed in 16 (23%) patients after post-colonoscopy diverticulitis.

Conclusions: Post-colonoscopy diverticulitis is a rare, but potentially serious complication. Although a rare entity, possibility of this complication should be kept in mind in patients presenting with symptoms after colonoscopy.

Keywords: Colonoscopy; Colonoscopy complication; Diverticulitis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colonoscopy / adverse effects*
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / epidemiology
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / etiology*
  • Diverticulitis, Colonic / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors