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"My mother has diverticulitis and cirrhosis together. What are the possible outcomes?"

ZocdocAnswersMy mother has diverticulitis and cirrhosis together. What are the possible outcomes?


My mother was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday, she has diverticulitis that has a perforated intestine that leaked fecal and air into her abdomen. She was rushed into emergency surgery Tuesday evening and they removed the fecal and air and placed a colostomy bag. The other issue is my mother also has cirrhosis of the liver and apparently has a lot of ascites. The doctors claim that the infection is really bad and she’s really sick and that they have her on a lot of antibiotics but since her liver is not functioning as a healthy person’s would, her recovery is much more difficult and giving her a 10-20% chance. Do they always give worse possible outcomes? Is that what this is? Has anyone seen anyone come out of something like this with these issues? I can’t lose my mom… but need someone to be more frank and open with me. They are keeping her sedated stating to keep her stable because she is in critical condition.


It sounds like this is a very difficult time for you and your family. Hopefully your mom will slowly but surely continue to get better and out of the hospital. However, it does sound as though she is critically ill. Any catastrophic medical illness (such as perforated diverticulitis) is potentially more severe in the setting of cirrhosis because of the central role the liver plays in eliminating toxins and regulating so many of the biological processes that keep the body functioning properly. The cause of your mom's cirrhosis and the length of time she has had this (and any associated complications) can be very important in helping determine just how serious this combination of problems may be - which is why it is important to discuss this with her physicians. The problem with patients with ascites and intestinal perforation is that this creates a perfect substrate for bacteria to grow. With leakage of fecal material into the abdominal cavity, the likelihood of overwhelming infection is very high. Even with the best treatment (surgical evacuation) and antibiotics, this kind of infection can be life-threatening. The important thing to remember is that when a patient such as your mom has a critical illness, it is important to focus on both the very best treatment *and* keeping the patient comfortable. It sounds like the doctors caring for your mom are doing all of the right things and she is comfortably sedated while her body is trying to heal. You should definitely sit down with her primary care physician or treating physicians to discuss your questions and concerns moving forward.

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