Diverticulitis is an acute infection of a diverticula. Most of the time, it can be treated with non-surgical interventions such as antibiotics and diet changes, and many people will not experience a recurrence of the attack. However, for complications such as a fistula (abnormal opening between organs), colon rupture, bleeding or abscesses, surgery may be necessary.
Surgical treatment for diverticulitis generally consist of removing the affected portion of the sigmoid colon. This can often be done laparoscopically, using instruments and a camera inserted through small incisions. Laparoscopic treatment for diverticulitis has the advantage of a faster recovery with less scarring. The affected section of colon is removed and the healthy portion reattached to the rectum. This is usually done in one surgery, but some people may have to have a colostomy temporarily while the colon heals. A colostomy consists of attaching the end of the intestine to a hole in the skin called a stoma, bypassing the rectum. This is typically done in cases of severe inflammation where it is not safe to reattach the intestine immediately.
Depending on your health and type of surgery, you may have to spend a day to a week in the hospital. You will probably receive intravenous nutrition at first, then a liquid diet, and then move to a low-residue (low fiber) diet for several weeks to give your intestines time to heal. Most people return to their normal activities in a few weeks. While you are recovering, you will not be able to lift anything or do any strenuous activity, so plan to have help with daily activities. Plan to have some quiet, low stress activities to keep yourself occupied. With appropriate dietary changes, most people will not need repeated surgery for diverticulitis.