Diverticula, or a single diverticulum, is this pouch that forms along the walls of a hollow structure in the body, kind of like a cave.
Usually we talk about these caves or pouches in the context of the large intestine, so it’d be a colonic diverticula, but it can also happen in the small intestine as well as other hollow structures in the body.
The walls of the large intestine are made up of several layers, starting with the inner layer, the mucosa, then the submucosa, then the muscle layer, and finally serosa.
Sometimes these little out-pouches include all the layers, from mucosa to serosa, and these are true diverticula, and sometimes only the mucosa and submucosa poke through the muscle layer, and these would be called pseudo or false diverticula, where the muscle layer isn’t included and the mucosa and submucosa are covered only by serosa.
Most of the time, diverticula in the large intestine are false diverticula.
It’s thought that the formation of colonic diverticula is a result of high pressures that literally push the walls such that they bubble out and form these pouches.
Now remember that the large intestine has this smooth muscle layer, right? And it’s able to contract using that muscle layer, just like any other muscle we contract, except that we can’t consciously control these because it’s smooth muscle rather than skeletal muscle.
This smooth muscle contraction accomplishes a couple things, like mixing ingested food and moving digested food toward the end of the line.
Whenever it contracts, though, higher pressures are generated inside the lumen, since it’s sort of like being squeezed and compressing the air inside, and normally you’d imagine that the higher pressure would be equally felt throughout the lumen, right?
Well, it’s thought that the contractions in patients with diverticula are exaggerated or abnormal in some way, which causes an unequal distribution of pressure with some specific areas having really high pressures during contractions.