Elective Surgery for Diverticulitis and the Risk of Recurrence and Ostomy

Ann Surg. 2021 Jun 1;273(6):1157-1164. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003639.


Objective: To assess the comparative risk of recurrence and ostomy after elective resection or medical therapy for uncomplicated diverticulitis, incorporating outpatient episodes of recurrence.

Background: While surgeons historically recommended colon resection for uncomplicated diverticulitis to reduce the risk of recurrence or colostomy, no prior studies have quantified this risk when considering outpatient episodes of disease. It remains to be determined whether surgery actually decreases those risks.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study employing an adjusted time-to-event analysis to assess the relationship of medical or surgical treatment with diverticulitis recurrence and/or receipt of an ostomy. Subjects were adults with ≥1 year continuous enrollment treated for ≥2 episodes of uncomplicated diverticulitis from a nationwide commercial claims dataset (2008-2014).

Results: Of 12,073 patients (mean age 56 ± 14 yr, 59% women), 19% underwent elective surgery and 81% were treated by medical therapy on their second treatment encounter for uncomplicated diverticulitis. At 1 year, patients treated by elective surgery had lower rates of recurrence (6%) versus those treated by medical therapy (32%) [15% vs 61% at 5 years, adjusted hazard ratio 0.17 (95% confidence interval: 0.15-0.20)]. At 1 year, the rate of ostomy after both treatments was low [surgery (inclusive of stoma related to the elective colectomy), 4.0%; medical therapy, 1.6%].

Conclusions: Elective resection for uncomplicated diverticulitis decreases the risk of recurrence, still 6% to 15% will recur within 5 years of surgery. The risk of ostomy is not lower after elective resection, and considering colostomies related to resection, ostomy prevention should not be considered an appropriate indication for elective surgery.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colostomy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diverticulitis / surgery*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment