Public Release: 

Acute diverticulitis occurring more frequently in younger patients in urban U.S. populations

American College of Radiology

Acute diverticulitis, a disease in which pouches called diverticula protrude through weak spots in the colon and become inflamed, is more widespread among younger U.S. urban populations than is currently believed, says a new study by researchers from the University of Maryland in Baltimore.

The study, conducted by Eram Zaidi, MD, and Barry Daly, MD, evaluated the records of 100 patients diagnosed with acute diverticulitis within a recent four-year period, 77 of whom had severe enough diverticulitis to warrant hospital admission. Fifty of the patients in the study were between the ages of 20 and 50, with 19 of those patients being younger than 40 years old, and fifty were over the age of 50. The results showed that the disease occurred just as often in the younger age bracket as in the older patients, with the disease frequently being severe in both age groups.

According to Dr. Daly, the results were surprising in light of what is commonly understood about this disease. "Traditionally, acute diverticulosis has been considered a disease of the over 50 year age group. Many radiologists and other physicians do not recognize that acute diverticulitis is now a disease that may occur at any age in adult life and do not consider it as a possible cause when younger adults present with abdominal pain."

The cause of this trend is currently under study. "We are examining the relationship between acute diverticulitis and overweight body habitus, as there appears to be a strong association between the rising incidence of acute diverticulitis in younger adults and the evolving obesity epidemic in this country," said Dr. Daly.

According to the study, the disease may likely become an even greater health problem in the U.S. "The results of this study may help change the perception that acute diverticulitis is a disease that only affects those over 50, and also highlight the value of CT in making this diagnosis. Acute diverticulitis is already a common disease and may become an even greater health problem if patients start to develop it at an earlier age--recurrent attacks and need for surgical resection of the colon are more likely to occur," said Dr. Daly.

Dr. Daly will present the study on May 3 during the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, FL.


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