Don't Be So Quick to Cut

Researchers question aggressive surgery in younger patients of diverticular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In an article that appears in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, researchers question one current strategy for treating diverticulitis in younger patients.

Diverticulitis is characterized by the inflammation of abnormal pouches in the intestinal wall. The swelling of these pouches can cause lower abdomen pain and discomfort, bloating, and constipation. Approximately 10 percent of Americans older than the age of 40 have diverticulitis. In the past, the disease was considered an old person's disease. However, rates of the disease in people younger than 50 are growing.

For patients younger than 50 years of age, experts have recommended surgery after one incident of complicated diverticulitis (when pouches pierce the bowel wall) and after one incident of uncomplicated diverticulitis (localized inflammation). However, researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal question this strategy.

Through a comparison of the course of the disease in younger patients versus older patients, Gil Faria and colleagues found that patients younger than 50 years of age had less severe diverticulitis but higher rates of recurrence. Among all patients who experienced recurrence of the disease, the most acute episode was the first episode.

According to the authors, these findings show that diverticulitis is a mild health problem that is even less severe in younger patients. As such, aggressive treatments that call for surgery seem unnecessary. The study's authors recommend that the treatments used for older patients should also be used for patients younger than 50 years of age.

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Review Date: 
January 25, 2011
Last Updated:
January 26, 2011