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Diverticulitis – A retrospective analysis of incidence and demographics in Christchurch Hospital

A 2018/2019 Summer Studentship research project

Understanding the demographics and clinical characteristics of patients with diverticulitis may allow for more stream-lined treatment options, and pave the way for studies involved in improving clinical management of diverticulitis.

Student: William Currie
Supervisor: Dr Rachel Purcell, Professor Frank Frizelle
Sponsor: TBC

Project brief


Diverticulitis is an increasingly common gastrointestinal disorder, but despite significant and rapid advances in medical knowledge, it remains a very poorly understood disease. It results in more than 150,000 hospitalisations per year in the US. In Christchurch, there is at least one case a day admitted to hospital, and it accounts for approximately one-third of acute surgical admissions. Recently, the greatest increases in patient hospitalization from diverticulitis are in the 14-40 year age group, despite historically thought to be a disease of older people.

Diverticulosis is characterised by the formation of intestinal pouches, called diverticula, and is very common and usually asymptomatic. When these diverticula become inflamed or infected, the disease is known as diverticulitis. The majority of diverticulitis cases are uncomplicated and settle with antibiotics; however, a significant proportion (around 20%) do not. Many initial presentations are complicated by perforation, fistulation and abscess formation, leading to one in five patients with diverticulitis requiring a bowel resection and usually a colostomy (stoma) on their first hospital admission. A further 20% will be readmitted within a year with the same problem. Within 5 years of a patient’s first admission with acute diverticulitis, one in three patients will have a colonic resection for diverticular disease.

Despite the high incidence of diverticulitis, little is known about the ethnic variation, association with antibiotic use and co-morbidities and the economic cost of the disease in NZ.


The study aims to investigate the demographics and clinical characteristics of patients admitted with diverticulitis to Christchurch hospital over a 10-year period, and estimate the economic impact of the disease.


The summer student will carry out a retrospective analysis of the electronic medical records of patients with diverticulitis admitted to Christchurch hospital in the 10-year period to 2017. The student will establish a database with details of patient demographics, antibiotic usage, co-morbidities and disease outcome.

Statistical analyses (using R or SPSS) will be carried out to investigate changes in demographic trends over time and associations between antibiotic usage and co-morbidities with disease course. In addition, using information obtained on patients’ admissions, medication and hospital procedures we aim to estimate the economic burden of diverticulitis.

Student researcher’s component of the study

The Summer Student will carry out the project as detailed above, with support from staff in the Department of Surgery and Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology.