“At any time in any hospital there will be a patient fighting for their life after emergency surgery, and another coming to terms with living with a stoma because of diverticular disease. Many others will suffer with ongoing symptoms that we currently don’t know how to treat. Research investment in this disease is essential.”

So says Dale Vimalachandran, consultant colorectal surgeon at the Countess of Chester Hospital – spelling out the need for more work to improve care for diverticular disease.

BDRF is delighted to have just awarded £30,000 toward an international research project, spearheaded by Dale, that aims to discover how best to treat the disease and look after patients.

A growing problem

About 1% of the UK population is likely to be hospitalised at some point in their life due to diverticular disease. That’s over half a million of us. This number is increasing fast too – the main risk factors are age & obesity, and with people living longer than ever before the likelihood of people suffering is going up all the time.

Diverticular disease happens when small bubbles (diverticula) form on the outer surface of the colon. These happen when pressure pushes parts of the inner lining of the bowel out through areas of weakness in its muscle lining. These are very common, and most of the time don’t cause any symptoms. Sometimes however, they can pose a serious threat. If the bubbles become inflamed, they can lead to agonising pain. If an abscess forms, patients require emergency treatment as soon as possible, as these can be life threatening.

Research urgently needed to improve care

Because diverticular disease never used to be so common, there is not enough understanding of the best way to treat individual patients. In some cases draining an abscess with a needle is enough to resolve the problem, but other times they will need the affected section of bowel removed during emergency surgery. Our project aims to guide surgeons in identifying which patients will benefit from which treatment.

The research team will look at treatment methods in 50 hospitals throughout Europe, the USA and Australasia. They will observe clinical decision-making in cases of diverticular abscesses (surgery or no surgery). Patients will then be contacted to check on their quality of life every 3 months.

The information will be used to assess what treatment pathways work best, enabling decisions to be taken on what standard care should look like worldwide.

Results of the research will guide surgeons and other healthcare professionals on the fundamentals of decision-making when assessing individual patients’ needs.

Knowing the best form of care would make a massive difference to the quality of life of many thousands of patients, as well as reducing costs to the NHS of what is set to become an ever increasing challenge.

We are delighted to be funding such crucial work – but we couldn’t do it without the support of our donors.

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