Understanding the Colon Surgery: Can Diverticulitis Come Back After Surgery?

Doctor with human Colon anatomy model and tablet diagnosing diverticulitis.
Doctor with human Colon anatomy model and tablet diagnosing diverticulitis.

Diverticulitis, a condition characterized by inflammation or infection of small pouches (diverticula) that form in the lining of the colon, can often necessitate surgical intervention when it becomes severe or recurrent. Surgery for diverticulitis typically involves removing the affected portion of the colon, a procedure known as a colectomy. While surgery is effective in alleviating symptoms and preventing complications in many cases, patients and healthcare providers alike may wonder: can diverticulitis return after surgery?

Understanding the Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis can be classified into different types based on various factors such as severity, location, and complications. Here are some common types of diverticulitis:

Sigmoid Diverticulitis:

This refers to the inflammation or infection of the diverticula located in the sigmoid colon, which is the S-shaped portion of the large intestine located in the lower left abdomen. Sigmoid diverticulitis may present with symptoms such as Persistent or severe lower left abdominal pain or tenderness, Fever, and chills, indicating the presence of infection, Nausea, and vomiting, Changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, and Rectal bleeding, though less common than in other types of diverticulitis. Acute sigmoid diverticulitis refers to the sudden onset of inflammation or infection specifically affecting the diverticula located in the colon.

Complicated Diverticulitis: 

Complicated diverticulitis involves additional complications beyond simple inflammation or infection of the diverticula. The rationale for elective surgery is to prevent recurrent complicated diverticulitis and to reduce emergency procedures. 

Uncomplicated Diverticulitis: 

This type of diverticulitis refers to cases where inflammation or infection of the diverticula occurs without complications such as abscess formation, perforation, or fistula formation. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, fever, and changes in bowel habits.

Acute Colonic Diverticulitis: 

This term specifies that the inflammation or infection primarily affects the colon. Diverticula, which are small pouches that form in the colon wall, become inflamed or infected, leading to symptoms.

Recurrent colonic diverticulitis refers to the repeated occurrence of inflammation or infection in the diverticula of the colon. Recurrent episodes of diverticulitis can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and may lead to complications, so surgical treatment is needed.

Acute Diverticulitis: 

While also referring to inflammation or infection of the diverticula, “acute diverticulitis” does not specify the location within the gastrointestinal tract. It could theoretically involve diverticula in any part of the digestive system, but it most commonly refers to diverticula in the colon.

Recurrence Risk: 

The recurrence of diverticulitis after surgery is a complex issue influenced by various factors. Studies have shown that while surgery significantly reduces the risk of recurrent diverticulitis, it does not eliminate the possibility. Recurrence rates vary widely, with some research suggesting rates as low as 5% and others reporting rates upwards of 30% over several years of follow-up.

Understanding the Underlying Causes

To comprehend the potential for diverticulitis recurrence post-surgery, it’s crucial to consider the underlying causes of the condition. 

Factors Influencing the Recurrent Diverticulitis

Several factors may contribute to the recurrence of diverticulitis following surgery:

Residual Diverticula: 

Despite surgical removal of the diseased segment, small diverticula may remain in the unaffected portions of the colon, potentially leading to recurrence.

Diet and Lifestyle: 

Adherence to a high-fiber diet and healthy lifestyle habits can help prevent diverticulitis recurrence. Conversely, poor dietary choices and sedentary behavior may increase the risk.

Complications of Surgery: 

Surgical complications such as anastomotic leaks or strictures can predispose patients to recurrent diverticulitis.

Patient-Specific Factors: 

Individual patient characteristics, including age, overall health, and presence of comorbidities, may influence the likelihood of recurrence.

Treatment for Recurrent Diverticulitis

Treatment for recurrent diverticulitis depends on the severity of the condition and the frequency of flare-ups. Here are some common treatment options:


If recurrent diverticulitis episodes are associated with infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection and reduce inflammation. The choice of antibiotics may vary based on the severity of symptoms and any known antibiotic sensitivities.

Dietary Modifications: 

Following a high-fiber diet can help promote regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, which may reduce the risk of diverticulitis flare-ups. Some individuals may benefit from a low-fiber or clear liquid diet during acute episodes, followed by a gradual transition back to a high-fiber diet.

Lifestyle Changes: 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of recurrent diverticulitis. This includes regular exercise, staying hydrated, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption, managing stress, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Medication Management: 

In some cases, medications may be prescribed to help manage symptoms or prevent recurrent episodes. This may include:

Pain relievers: 

Over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help alleviate abdominal pain associated with diverticulitis.

Bowel-regulating medications: 

Medications such as bulk-forming laxatives or stool softeners may help regulate bowel movements and prevent constipation or diarrhea.


Some individuals may benefit from probiotic supplements, which contain beneficial bacteria that can help promote gut health and reduce the risk of recurrent diverticulitis.


In cases of severe or recurrent diverticulitis that do not respond to conservative treatment measures, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical options may include:

Partial colectomy: 

Surgical removal of the affected portion of the colon.


In rare cases of complications such as perforation or fistula formation, temporary or permanent colostomy may be required to divert stool away from the affected area of the colon.

Laparoscopic or robotic-assisted surgery: 

Minimally invasive surgical techniques may be used to reduce persistent postoperative pain and shorten recovery time.

Surgical resection

Surgical resection is a medical procedure involving the removal of diseased or damaged tissue or organs from the body. It is a common approach used in various medical specialties, including oncology, gastroenterology, and general surgery. This generally prevents any additional episodes of diverticulitis. 

Sigmoid resection:

Also known as sigmoidectomy, a surgical procedure in which a portion of the sigmoid colon is removed. The sigmoid is the S-shaped segment of the large intestine located just before the rectum. Sigmoid resection is commonly performed to treat various conditions affecting the colon, including recurrent diverticulitis, colorectal cancer, and other diseases that affect the colon.


Individuals with recurrent diverticulitis need to work closely with their healthcare provider or colon and rectal surgeons to develop a personalized treatment plan for their specific needs and medical history. By following recommended treatment guidelines and making appropriate lifestyle modifications, many individuals can effectively manage recurrent diverticulitis and reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups. Regular medical follow-up is essential to monitor for recurrence and adjust treatment as needed.

Your Birmingham Colon Surgeon: Dr. Adam Harris

If you’re in search of a highly skilled and experienced colon surgeon in the Birmingham, Alabama area, look no further than Dr. Adam Harris. With his expertise and dedication to patient care, Dr. Harris stands out as the go-to specialist for all your colon-related concerns.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards better digestive health, schedule a consultation with Dr. Adam Harris, your Birmingham colon surgeon. With his compassionate care and advanced surgical skills, Dr. Harris is committed to helping you achieve optimal health and well-being. Trust your digestive health with the expertise of Dr. Adam Harris and experience the difference for yourself.

Contact a Colon Surgeon Today!

Dr. Adam Harris, MD, is a trusted General Surgeon in Birmingham, Alabama. He is Board-Certified by the American Board of Surgery. As a Mayo Clinic-trained surgeon, Dr. Adam can help you with colon and rectal issues. Schedule your appointment today at (205) 995-9700.

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