Ethnicity's Role in Return of Colon Condition

Colonic diverticulitis repeat cases likelier among African Americans and obese

February 20, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

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(dailyRx News) Treatments for a certain disease of the colon can help to some extent, regardless of patients' ethnic backgrounds. But ethnicity may play a role in whether the colon condition makes a come back.

After a first hospital stay for colonic diverticulitis, African Americans and obese individuals were more likely to have the condition return and require surgery, according to a recently published study.

The findings highlighted which patients should keep an eye on the condition after being treated and who should follow up with their doctors regarding their condition.

"Stick to your follow-up appointments."

In colonic diverticulitis, parts of the colon become inflamed, damaged and blocked by various abscesses. Little is known about the impact of ethnicity and obesity on the colon condition, which can cause pain and bloating.

The study, led by Konika Bose, MD, from the Division of Gastroenterology & Liver Diseases at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York, included 347 patients with colonic diverticulitis.

Researchers set out to determine how obesity and different racial backgrounds affected the complications of colonic diverticulitis, whether surgery was needed and the odds that the condition would return.

Typically, treatments for mild cases of diverticulitis include dietary changes and antibiotics. More complicated cases require hospitalization.

Researchers reviewed the medical histories of 347 patients who were diagnosed with diverticulitis and hospitalized at two university hospitals in the Bronx, New York. Researchers focused on repeat cases of diverticulitis.

If the colon condition returned after the first treatment, researchers found that the odds African Americans needed surgery to treat the condition were more than two times higher than the odds of other ethnic groups.

Among Hispanics, the odds of needing surgery a second time were cut in half compared to other groups.

Caucasians were half as likely as other groups to have a recurring case of diverticulitis.

For obese individuals with a body mass index (BMI) - a measure of body fat using height and weight - higher than 30, the odds of having a recurring case of the colon condition were almost two times higher than the odds for non-obese people.

"Neither race/ethnicity nor obesity was found to be the risk factor for needing surgery on initial admission for diverticulitis," researchers wrote in their report.

"Surprisingly however, our study did show that African Americans were more than twice as likely, and Hispanics only half as likely, as the other racial/ethnic groups to require surgery after at least one medically managed hospital admission for diverticulitis."

Though researchers said the reasons for the disparities in diverticulitis between races were unclear, they said it could be caused by a few factors. For one, African Americans often form more scar tissue after having surgery and, on average, have a higher BMI.

In addition, diverticulitis and obesity have been linked with microbial changes along the inside of the intestines.

The authors noted that their results relied on patients to self-report their race correctly.

The study was published in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. No financial support or conflicts of interest were declared for the study.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 16, 2013
Last Updated:
February 20, 2013