Complex Diverticulitis - The Risk, the Treatment and How to Prevent It

This happy wife and long-time school teacher couldn’t remember the last time she was ill. Always active and full of energy, Cheryl Hess had little to no serious health problems her entire life. So when she started experiencing low grade fevers, nausea and digestive issues, she knew something had to be wrong.

During the spring of 2015, Cheryl’s routine colonoscopy revealed some non-routine results. Follow-up CT scans and enema tests confirmed that Cheryl had an abscess in her abdomen from diverticulitis. Her doctors diagnosed her with complex diverticulitis (inflammation/infection of the in the colon).

Healthy ColonHamza Guend, M.D., colon and rectal surgeon with TriHealth Surgical Institute - Colon and rectal section says that though this is fairly common, it can become fatal in the most severe cases if not taken care of right away. In cases of complex diverticulitis, outpockets or sacs called diverticula that form in the colon become inflamed and infected, which can cause abscesses as in Cheryl’s case. The procedure to address this condition entails draining the abscess, and ultimately removing out the piece of bowel that was inflamed. Depending on the severity of the abscess, recovery time can vary from a couple months to a year.

Unfortunately for Cheryl, her abscess was severe. With a few medical setbacks, Cheryl spent seven months recovering from this emergency surgery. It was a long and difficult journey, but Cheryl persisted and looked at each day as a new one. “You need to count the little victories,” says Hess. “You can always recover; you just have to be willing to put in the time and the emotional investment.”

Though it is hard to pinpoint when an infection like diverticulitis begins to manifest, it is always important to be conscious of what we’re putting in our bodies to prevent serious digestive harm.

Dr. Guend advises, “It is so important to have a fiber-rich diet. Fiber has many benefits. A diet high in fiber prevents many digestive issues that we see, like diverticular disease.” 

Along with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet, it is just as important to be aware of symptoms and potential red flags our bodies give us. Dr. Guend asserts that there are some symptoms that are more alarming than others. “Any abdominal pain, weight loss, changes in bowel movements or bleeding are all things to take into consideration.”

Cheryl is happier and healthier than ever and feels fortunate to have had Dr. Guend and his team caring for her during this entire process. “I did my research on complex diverticulitis. I know how serious it was. Anyone going through serious procedures needs to be onboard with finding a really good surgeon and team. I was more than lucky that I got both,” says Hess.

Not even a year after her recovery, Cheryl continues her love for traveling. She just completed a 1.5-mile hike in the Colorado mountains. Cheryl says, “I truly have a different outlook on those suffering; I’m so grateful for my life. I see everything now as such joy.”

Tags Digestive