CORONADO, CALIF. – Among patients diagnosed with diverticulitis via CT scan in the emergency department who were discharged home, only 13% required a return visit to the hospital, results from a long-term retrospective analysis demonstrated.
“In select patients whose assessment includes a CT scan, discharge to home from the emergency department with treatment for diverticulitis is safe,” study author Anne-Marie Sirany, MD, said at the annual meeting of the Western Surgical Association.
A few years ago, researchers conducted a randomized trial to evaluate the treatment of uncomplicated diverticulitis (). Patients were diagnosed with diverticulitis in the emergency department and randomized to either hospital admission or outpatient management at home. The investigators found no significant differences between the readmission rates of the inpatient and outpatient groups, but the health care costs were three times lower in the outpatient group. Dr. Sirany and her associates set out to compare the outcomes of patients diagnosed with and treated for diverticulitis in the emergency department who were discharged to home, versus those who were admitted to the hospital. They reviewed the medical records of 240 patients with a primary diagnosis of diverticulitis by CT scan who were evaluated in the emergency department at one of four hospitals and one academic medical center from September 2010 to January 2012. The primary outcome was hospital readmission or return to the emergency department within 30 days, while the secondary outcomes were recurrent diverticulitis or surgical resection for diverticulitis.
The mean age of the 240 patients was 59 years, 45% were men, 22% had a Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) of greater than 2, and 7.5% were on steroids or immunosuppressant medications. More than half (62%) were admitted to the hospital, while the remaining 38% were discharged home on oral antibiotics. Compared with patients discharged home, those admitted to the hospital were more likely to be older than age 65 (43% vs. 24%, respectively; P = .003), have a CCI of 2 or greater (28% vs. 13%; P = .007), were more likely to be on immunosuppressant or steroid medications (11% vs. 1%; P = .003), show extraluminal air on CT (30% vs. 7%; P less than .0001), or show abscess on CT (19% vs. 1%; P less than .0001). “Of note: We did not have any patients who had CT scan findings of pneumoperitoneum who were discharged home, and 48% of patients admitted to the hospital had uncomplicated diverticulitis,” she said.
After a median follow-up of 37 months, no significant differences were observed between patients discharged to home and those admitted to the hospital in readmission or return to the emergency department (13% vs. 14%), recurrent diverticulitis (23% in each group), or in colon resection at subsequent encounter (16% vs. 19%). “Among patients discharged to home, only one patient required emergency surgery, and this was 20 months after their index admission,” Dr. Sirany said. “We think that the low rate of readmission in patients discharged home demonstrates that this is a safe approach to management of patients with diverticulitis, when using information from the CT scan.”
Closer analysis of patients who were discharged home revealed that six patients had extraluminal air on CT scan, three of whom returned to the emergency department or were admitted to the hospital. In addition, 11% of those with uncomplicated diverticulitis returned to the emergency department or were admitted to the hospital.
Dr. Sirany acknowledged certain limitations of the study, including its retrospective design, a lack of complete follow-up for all patients, and the fact that it included patients with recurrent diverticulitis. “Despite the limitations, we recommend that young, relatively healthy patients, with uncomplicated findings on CT scan, can be discharged to home and managed as an outpatient,” she said. “In an era where there’s increasing attention to health care costs, we need to think more critically about which patients need to be admitted for management of uncomplicated diverticulitis.” She reported having no financial disclosures.