How to Diagnose Diverticulitis

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Diverticulitis.  Do I Have It, Or, Do I Have Something Else?

It seems as if everyone has either had diverticulitis or knows someone who has had diverticulitis.  In reality, many illnesses can masquerade as diverticulitis.  Patients visit the colon and rectal surgeon, also known as a proctologist, informing the doctor of a diagnosis of diverticulitis.  After listening to the presentation of the problem, and after an examination, the surgeon will often advise of an alternate diagnosis, often much less serious than diverticulitis.  But not uncommonly, the diagnosis of diverticulitis is confirmed and hospitalization a  hospital in Los Angeles such as Cedars-SinaiMedicalCenter is needed.

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But remember, not all abdominal pain is diverticulitis.

What Is Diverticulitis?

The colon is a long, hollow tube surrounded by muscle.  The tube reabsorbs water and the muscle contracts to move the stool forward toward the rectum for storage and eventual release.  All along the colon, nerves and blood vessels enter the wall of the colon to provide senstaion, oxygen and nourishment.  These points of entry are weak spots in the wall.  These weak spots are more common in the sigmoid colon on the left side of the abdomen.  As pressure builds, these weak points bulge outward.  Eventually, as we age, these weak areas become sacs known as diverticula.  When they are inflamed or infected, the patient is said to have diverticulitis.  The commonest symptom of diverticulitis is abdominal pain.

How Is Diverticulitis diagnosed?

The surgeon  has several tools available to make a diagnosis of diverticulitis.  They are:

  • Listening to the patient and taking a history.
  • A Physical exam of the abdomen, paying close attention to the quality of the pain and tenderness, its location and its intensity is important.
  • If necessary, a CT scan of the abdomen may reveal certain changes in and around the area of inflamation.
  • Blood tests to evaluate for an elevated white blood cell count (WBC).  Although not diagnostic, an elevated WBC can help confirm the diagnosis.
  • If severe enough, an operation may be needed to confirm and treat diverticulitis.

Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates

The board certified surgeons of Los Angeles Colon and Rectal Surgical Associates are available to listen to your history, gently examine you and order the necessary tests to confirm or disprove the diagnosis of diverticulitis.  Sometimes hospitalization at a hospital such as Cedars-SinaiMedicalCenter may be necessary.

By calling (310)273-2310, you can schedule a consultation and begin to understand your diagnosis and treatment plan.  The sooner you are evaluated, the quicker you can deal with a painful yet curable disease.

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