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Nursing Care Plan | NCP Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease has two clinical forms, diverticulosis and diverticulitis. People with diverticulosis have multiple, noninflamed diverticula (outpouches of the intestinal mucosa through the circular smooth muscle of the bowel wall). Usually diverticulosis is asymptomatic and does not require treatment. Diverticulitis, in contrast, occurs when the diverticula become inflamed or microperforated. Diverticular disease usually occurs in the descending and sigmoid colon and is accompanied by signs of inflammation. Mortality and morbidity are related to complications of diverticulosis such as diverticulitis and lower gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding, which occur in 10% to 20% of patients with diverticulosis during their lifetime. The lifetime recurrence is 30% after the first episode of diverticulitis and more than 50% after a second episode.

Patients generally have increased muscular contractions in the sigmoid colon that produce muscular thickness and increased intraluminal pressure. This increased pressure, accompanied by a weakness in the colon wall, causes diverticular formations. In addition, diet may be a contributing factor. A diet with insufficient fiber reduces fecal residue, narrows the bowel lumen, and leads to higher intra-abdominal pressure during defecation. Diverticulitis is caused when stool and bacteria are retained in the diverticular outpouches, leading to the formation of a hardened mass called a fecalith. The fecalith obstructs blood supply to the diverticular area, leading to inflammation, edema of tissues, and possible bowel perforation and peritonitis.
Nursing care plan
Nursing care plan assessment and physical examination
Patients with diverticulosis are generally asymptomatic but may report cramping abdominal pain in the left lower quadrant of the abdomen that is relieved with episodes of flatulence and a bowel movement. Occasional rectal bleeding may also be noted. Patients with diverticulitis usually report cramping in the left lower quadrant with abdominal pain that radiates to the back. Other complaints frequently reported are episodes of constipation and diarrhea, lowgrade ever, chills, weakness, fatigue, abdominal distension, flatulence, and anorexia. Patients may report that symptoms often follow and are accentuated by the ingestion of foods such as popcorn, celery, fresh vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Symptoms are also aggravated during stressful times.

Because diverticular disease is a chronic disorder that generally alters a patient’s nutritional intake, inspect for malnutrition symptoms such as weight loss, lethargy, brittle nails, and hair loss. Assess vital signs since temperature and pulse elevations are common. Palpate the patient’s abdominal area for pain or tenderness over the left lower quadrant. Palpate for a mass in this area, which may indicate diverticular inflammation.

Because emotional tension and stress commonly precipitate episodes of diverticulitis, determine the patient’s current stressors and his or her coping mechanisms and what type of support system is available.

Nursing care plan primary nursing diagnosis: Anxiety related to knowledge deficit of the disease process and treatment.

Nursing care plan intervention and treatment
For uncomplicated diverticulosis, a diet high in vegetable fiber is recommended. If constipation is a problem, bulk-forming laxatives and stool softeners are often prescribed to decrease stool transit time and minimize intraluminal pressure. For diverticulitis, care centers on “resting” the bowel until the inflammatory process subsides. Bedrest is recommended to decrease intestinal motility, and oral intake is restricted, with supplemental intravenous fluid administration followed by a liquid diet and, eventually, a bland, low-residue diet. After the inflammatory episode resolves, the patient is advanced to a high-fiber diet to prevent future acute inflammatory attacks.

Surgical intervention may be required if the diverticular disease becomes symptomatic and is not relieved with conservative treatment. Surgery is mandatory if complications develop, such as hemorrhage, bowel obstruction, abscess, or bowel perforation. A colon resection with temporary colostomy placement may be necessary until the bowel heals.

For uncomplicated diverticulosis, nursing interventions focus on teaching measures to prevent acute inflammatory episodes. Explain the disease process and the strong connection between dietary intake and diverticular disease. Instruct the patient that a diet high in fiber—such as whole grains and cereals, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and potatoes—should be followed. Caution the patient to avoid foods with seeds or nuts, which may lodge in the diverticula and cause inflammation. Teach the patient about prescribed medications. In addition, discuss measures to prevent constipation. Instruct the patient to avoid activities that increase intra-abdominal pressure, such as lifting, bending, coughing, and straining with bowel movements. Instruct the patient about relaxation techniques. Discuss symptoms that indicate an acute inflammation, which would require prompt medical attention. For patients with diverticulitis, provide supportive care to promote bowel recovery and provide comfort. As the inflammation subsides, teach the patient measures to prevent inflammatory recurrences. Instruct the patient about the purpose of any diagnostic procedures ordered. Should surgery be required, instruct the patient preoperatively about the procedure and postoperative care, leg exercises, deep breathing exercises, and ostomy care when appropriate. Postoperatively, meticulous wound care must be provided to prevent infection.

Nursing care plan discharge and home health care guidelines
Be sure the patient understands any prescribed medications, including purpose, dosage, route, and side effects. Explain the need to keep the wound clean and dry. Teach the patient any special care needed for the wound. Review stoma care with the patient. Teach the patient to observe the wound and report any increased swelling, redness, drainage, odor, separation of the wound edges, or duskiness of the stoma. Review with the patient measures for preventing inflammatory recurrences. Discuss the signs of diverticular inflammation, such as fever, acute abdominal pain, a change in bowel pattern, and rectal bleeding. Explain that such symptoms require prompt medical attention.
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