This site is intended for health professionals only

Antibiotics ‘should not be used for diverticulitis’

GPs should reserve antibiotics for only the most serious cases of diverticulitis; say researchers whose study found treatment had no effect on the time to recovery.

The study in over 600 patients presenting with acute uncomplicated diverticulitis to hospitals in Sweden found stays were similar between those treated with antibiotics and those that were not, with an average of 2.9 days for each group.

There were no significant differences in the rate of complications (six patients in the non-antibiotics group and three in the antibiotics group) or in bowel habits or recurrence rates after 12 months in those treated with antibiotics, compared with similar patients that were not.

Guidelines currently recommend bowel rest and course of broad-spectrum antibiotics in patients with uncomplicated diverticulitis, but the authors of this study said this could contribute to antibiotic resistance unnecessarily.

Study leader Dr Abbas Chabok, a surgeon at Uppsala University in Sweden, said: ‘Antibiotics should be reserved mainly for patients with complicated diverticulitis.'

Dr John O'Malley, a hospital practitioner in gastroenterology and secretary of the Primary Care Gastroenterology Society, said the study supported recent research that suggested diverticulitis was due to inflammatory changes, rather than infection.

He said: ‘People are jumping to antibiotics too early, and really what they should be doing is a more conservative approach of diet, resting the bowel and some good pain relief with anti-inflammatories.'


British Journal of Surgery 2012, published online 30 January


Visit Pulse Reference for details on 140 symptoms, including easily searchable symptoms and categories, offering you a free platform to check symptoms and receive potential diagnoses during consultations.