Understanding Diverticulosis

Welcome to our Patient Education page!

Our team of specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your digestive system. Please use the search field below to browse our website. You'll find a wide array of information about our office, your digestive health, and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact our office.

Screening or Diagnostic Colonoscopy?

All colonoscopies, whether diagnostic or screening, are billed under the CPT/Procedure code 45378.  The diagnosis or reason for the colonoscopy is what determines if the procedure is diagnostic/surveillance or preventative/screening. 
 

Diagnostic/Surveillance Colonoscopy: 

The patient has past and/or present gastrointestinal symptoms, polyps, GI disease, iron deficiency anemia and/or any other abnormal tests OR the patient is currently asymptomatic (no gastrointestinal symptoms either past or present) but has a personal history of GI disease, personal and/or family history of colon polyps and/or colon cancer.  Patients in this category are required to undergo colonoscopy surveillance at shortened intervals (e.g. every 2-5 years). 

Insurance plans process these claims subject to the individuals deductible and co-insurance requirements.

Preventative Screening Colonoscopy:

The patient is asymptomatic (no gastrointestinal symptoms either past or present), age 50 or greater, has no personal or family history of GI disease, colon polyps, and/or cancer.  The patient has not undergone a colonoscopy within the last 10 years.

Insurance plans usually process these claims under the wellness benefit, payable at 100% if it is a benefit of the individual’s health insurance plan.

Frequently asked questions:

Who will bill me?

You may receive bills for your procedure from the physician, the facility, anesthesia, pathologist and/or laboratory. 

Can the physician change, add, or delete my diagnosis so that my procedure can be considered a preventative/wellness/routine screening?

NO!  The patient encounter is documented as a medical record from the information you have provided, as well as what is obtained during our pre-procedure history and assessment.  It is a binding legal document that cannot be changed to facilitate better insurance coverage.

What if my insurance company tells me that the doctor can change, add or delete a CPT or diagnosis code?

This happens a lot. Often the representative will tell the patient that if the “doctor had coded this as a screening, it would be paid at 100%."  A member services representative should never suggest a physician alter a medical record for billing purposes. 


FAQS - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How long will my procedure take?
A: Plan to spend 2- 2 1/2 hours with us from the time you arrive until when you are released to go home. The procedures themselves are relatively quick.
- An upper endoscopy takes 8-10 minutes, depending on what is found and the need for biopsies.
- A colonoscopy usually takes about 20-25 minutes, again depending on the findings and need for polyp removal, biopsies, etc.
The rest of your stay involves going over the consent prior to the procedure, a physical assessment, taking vital signs, placing an IV and attaching you to a continuous monitor. After the procedure, you will stay under our observation until you are deemed ready to be driven home.
 
Q: Can I drive myself home after the procedure?
A: No. The anesthesia and sedation we use, while relatively short-acting, can have subtle effects for hours after your procedure. Possible drowsiness and delayed reaction times make driving potentially dangerous. Therefore, having someone drive you home is necessary. You may drive and return to normal activities the following day.
 
Q: How soon can I eat and drink after my procedure?
A: Usually immediately after you leave the office, unless you are told otherwise. It is best to avoid heavy meals for that day.
 
Q: Can I take routine medications the day of the procedure?
A: Please do not take any of your medications except those for blood pressure, heart and seizures unless otherwise instructed by your physician.
 
Q: Do I need antibiotics prior to my procedure for an artificial joint?
A: No. The American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy has concluded that antibiotic use for a patient with an artificial joint is not necessary.
 
Q: What happens if I begin to vomit during my prep?
A: Wait 1-2 hours to allow your stomach to settle. Start to drink the solution at a slower pace- every 20-30 minutes. This will take longer but should keep you from vomiting the rest of the solution.
 
Q: I have my period. Can I still have my colonoscopy?
A: Yes. This will not interfere with your procedure. You may use a tampon during the procedure.
 
Q: Do I have to drink all of my prep?
A: Yes. You want your colon completely cleaned out. This allows the physician to find and treat the smallest and flattest polyps.
 
Q: I’m diabetic. What precautions should I take?
A: If you are diabetic, we will give you special instructions. You will need to let us know ALL of your medications and doses. You should check your blood sugars periodically throughout the day of the prep and the procedure. Since you are on clear liquids, your blood sugar will tend to drop faster than normal. To avoid this, be sure to include some liquids with sugar.
 
Q: What if I forget to stop my blood thinners?
A: Please contact the office.
 
Q: Can I take over the counter medications with my prep?
A: Most over the counter medications are acceptable except fish oil, aspirin, Motrin, Advil, ibuprofen, Aleve, naprosyn, naproxen or iron supplements. Tylenol will not interfere with your procedure.
 
Q: Is it OK to drink alcohol?
A: NO! We strongly suggest that you avoid all alcohol before your procedure as it can cause dehydration and may thin your blood.
 
Q: Can I brush my teeth?
A: Yes.
 
Q: Can I chew gum or suck on hard candy?
A: Yes, but no red candy or candy with soft centers. Nothing after midnight.
 
Q: What can I take for a headache?
A: Tylenol or Extra-Strength Tylenol only.

This information was developed by the Publications Committee of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE). For more information about ASGE, visit www.asge.org.

This information is intended only to provide general guidance. It does not provide definitive medical advice. It is important that you consult your doctor about your specific condition.

Download this article in PDF format
Don't have Adobe Reader? Download it here

Diverticulosis is a common condition in the United States that affects half of all people over 60 years of age and nearly everyone by the age of 80. Most people who have diverticulosis are unaware that they have the condition because it usually does not cause symptoms.

What is diverticulosis?

Diverticulosis is a condition in which there are small pouches or pockets in the wall or lining of any portion of the digestive tract. These pockets occur when the inner layer of the digestive tract pushes through weak spots in the outer layer. A single pouch is called a diverticulum. The pouches associated with diverticulosis are most often located in the lower part of the large intestine (the colon). Some people may have only several small pouches on the left side of the colon, while others may have involvement in most of the colon.

Who gets diverticulosis?

Diverticulosis is a common condition in the United States that affects half of all people over 60 years of age and nearly everyone by the age of 80. As a person gets older, the pouches in the digestive tract become more prominent. Diverticulosis is unusual in people under 40 years of age. In addition, it is uncommon in certain parts of the world, such as Asia and Africa.

What causes diverticulosis?

Because diverticulosis is uncommon in regions of the world where diets are high in fiber and rich in grains, fruits and vegetables, most doctors believe this condition is due in part to a diet low in fiber. A low-fiber diet leads to constipation, which increases pressure within the digestive tract with straining during bowel movements. The combination of pressure and straining over many years likely leads to diverticulosis.

The easiest way to increase fiber intake is to eat more fruits, vegetables and grains. Diverticulosis is uncommon in regions of the world where diets are high in fiber and rich in grains, fruits and vegetables. Most doctors believe this condition is due in part to a diet low in fiber.

What are the symptoms of diverticulosis?

Most people who have diverticulosis are unaware that they have the condition because it usually does not cause symptoms. It is possible that some people with diverticulosis experience bloating, abdominal cramps or constipation due to difficulty in stool passage through the affected region of the colon.

How is the diagnosis of diverticulosis made?

Because most people do not have symptoms, diverticulosis is often found incidentally during evaluation for another condition or during a screening exam for polyps. Gastroenterologists can directly visualize the diverticula (more than one pouch, or diverticulum) in the colon during a procedure that uses a small camera attached to a lighted, flexible tube inserted through the rectum. One of these procedures is a sigmoidoscopy, which uses a short tube to examine only the rectum and lower part of the colon. A colonoscopy uses a longer tube to examine the entire colon. Diverticulosis can also be seen using other imaging tests, for example by computed tomography (CT) scan or barium x-ray.

What is the treatment for diverticulosis?

Once diverticula form, they do not disappear by themselves. Fortunately, most patients with diverticulosis do not have symptoms and, therefore, do not need treatment.

When diverticulosis is accompanied by abdominal pain, bloating or constipation, your doctor may recommend a high-fiber diet to help make stools softer and easier to pass. While it is recommended that we consume 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily, most people only get about half that amount. The easiest way to increase fiber intake is to eat more fruits, vegetables and grains. Apples, pears, broccoli, carrots, squash, baked beans, kidney beans, and lima beans are a few examples of high-fiber foods. As an alternative, your doctor may recommend a supplemental fiber product such as psyllium, methylcellulose, or poly-carbophil. These products come in various forms including pills, powders and wafers. Supplemental fiber products help to bulk up and soften the stool, which makes bowel movements easier to pass. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help relax spasms in the colon that cause abdominal cramping or discomfort.

Bleeding in the colon may occur from a diverticulum. Intestinal blockage may occur in the colon from repeated attacks of diverticulitis. If left untreated, diverticulitis may lead to an abscess outside the colon wall or an infection in the lining of the abdominal cavity.

Are there complications from diverticulosis?

Diverticulosis may lead to several complications including inflammation, infection, bleeding or intestinal blockage. Fortunately, diverticulosis does not lead to cancer.

Diverticulitis occurs when the pouches become infected or inflamed. This condition usually produces localized abdominal pain, tenderness to touch and fever. A person with diverticulitis may also experience nausea, vomiting, shaking, chills or constipation. Your doctor may order a CT scan to confirm a diagnosis of diverticulitis. Minor cases of infection are usually treated with oral antibiotics and do not require admission to the hospital. If left untreated, diverticulitis may lead to a collection of pus (called an abscess) outside the colon wall or a generalized infection in the lining of the abdominal cavity, a condition referred to as peritonitis. Usually a CT scan is required to diagnose an abscess, and treatment usually requires a hospital stay, antibiotics administered through a vein and possibly drainage of the abscess. Repeated attacks of diverticulitis may require surgery to remove the affected portion of the colon. Bleeding in the colon may occur from a diverticulum and is called diverticular bleeding. This is the most common cause of major colonic bleeding in patients over 40 years old and is usually noticed as passage of red or maroon blood through the rectum. Most diverticular bleeding stops on its own; however, if it does not, a colonoscopy may be required for evaluation. If bleeding is severe or persists, a hospital stay is usually required to administer intravenous fluids or possibly blood transfusions. In addition, a colonoscopy may be required to determine the cause of bleeding and to treat the bleeding. Occasionally, surgery or other procedures may be necessary to stop bleeding that cannot be stopped by other methods. Intestinal blockage may occur in the colon from repeated attacks of diverticulitis. In this case, surgery may be necessary to remove the involved area of the colon.

Download this article in PDF format
Don't have Adobe Reader? Download it here