Patient Care

Colonic Malignancy Risk Appears Low After Uncomplicated Diverticulitis


 

Clinical question: What is the benefit of routine colonic evaluation after an episode of acute diverticulitis?

Background: Currently accepted guidelines recommend routine colonic evaluation (colonoscopy, computed tomography (CT) colonography) after an episode of acute diverticulitis to confirm the diagnosis and exclude malignancy. Increased use of CT to confirm the diagnosis of acute diverticulitis and exclude associated complications has brought into question the recommendation for routine colonic evaluation after an episode of acute diverticulitis.

Study design: Meta-analysis.

Setting: Search of online databases and the Cochrane Library.

Synopsis: Eleven studies from seven countries included 1,970 patients who had a colonic evaluation after an episode of acute diverticulitis. The risk of finding a malignancy was 1.6%. Within this population, 1,497 patients were identified as having uncomplicated diverticulitis. Cancer was found in only five patients (proportional risk estimate 0.7%).

For the 79 patients identified as having complicated diverticulitis, the risk of finding a malignancy on subsequent screening was 10.8%.

Every systematic review is limited by the quality of the studies available for review and the differences in design and methodology of the studies. In this meta-analysis, the risk of finding cancer after an episode of uncomplicated diverticulitis appears to be low. Given the limited resources of the healthcare system and the small but real risk of morbidity and mortality associated with invasive colonic procedures, the routine recommendation for colon cancer screening after an episode of acute uncomplicated diverticulitis should be further evaluated.

Bottom line: The risk of malignancy after a radiologically proven episode of acute uncomplicated diverticulitis is low. In the absence of other indications, additional routine colonic evaluation may not be necessary.

Citation: Sharma PV, Eglinton T, Hider P, Frizelle F. Systematic review and meta-analysis of the role of routine colonic evaluation after radiologically confirmed acute diverticulitis. Ann Surg. 2014;259(2):263-272.

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