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Diverticulitis - Exams and Tests

Your doctor will take a history and do a physical exam if diverticulitis is suspected. Depending on your symptoms, you may have one or more tests to rule out other medical problems that could be causing your symptoms. The extent of testing will depend on how bad your symptoms are and how long they have lasted.

Routine tests

These tests may be done any time you see your doctor about abdominal pain or other symptoms.

Tests done as needed

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may want to do one or more of these tests.

  • A computed tomography (CT) scan may be done if symptoms suggest you have a pocket of infection (abscess) in your abdomen or that a pouch (diverticulum) has burst. The scan also can reveal other possible causes of your symptoms.
  • A barium enema X-ray may be used to show diverticula or other possible causes of your symptoms. But a barium enema camera.gif X-ray usually is not done while you are having an attack of diverticulitis because of the risk that the barium might spill into the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity) if you have a perforation. A material that performs a function similar to barium but that can dissolve in water (water-soluble contrast) may be used instead.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy may be used if your main symptom is bleeding from the intestine. These tests also may be done to look for narrow spots or growths in the intestine and to rule out ulcerative colitis or cancer. But sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy are not usually done while you are having an attack of diverticulitis because of the risk that the scope could tear the lining of the colon (perforation). If this happens, the infection could spill into the peritoneum (the lining of the abdominal cavity). This would cause a more serious infection.
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