Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Appendicitis is inflammation of the
appendix, a small portion of the large intestine that hangs down from the lower
right side. Although the appendix does not seem to serve any purpose, it can
still become diseased. If untreated, an inflamed appendix can burst, causing
infection and even death. About 1 in 500 people has appendicitis each year.
Appendicitis may occur after a viral
infection in the digestive tract or when the tube connecting the large intestine
and appendix is blocked by trapped stool. The inflammation can cause infection,
a blood clot, or rupture of the appendix. Because of the risk of rupture,
appendicitis is considered an emergency. Anyone with symptoms needs to see a
include the following:
the right side of the abdomen. The pain usually begins near the navel and moves
down and to the right. The pain becomes worse when moving, taking deep breaths,
coughing, sneezing, and being touched in the area.
•Inability to pass gas.
•Low fever that begins after other
Not everyone has all symptoms. It is
important that people with symptoms of appendicitis not take laxatives or enemas
to relieve constipation because these medicines could cause the appendix to
burst. People also should not take pain medicine because it can mask symptoms
that the doctor needs to know about.
The doctor bases an appendicitis
diagnosis on symptoms, a physical exam, blood tests to check for signs of
infection such as a high white blood cell count, and urine tests to rule out a
urinary tract infection. Some doctors use ultrasound to see whether the appendix
looks inflamed. Treatment is surgery to remove the appendix, called
appendectomy. Doctors are beginning to use laparoscopic surgery for
appendectomy. This technique involves making several tiny cuts in the abdomen
and inserting a miniature camera and surgical instruments. The surgeon then
removes the appendix with the instruments, so there is no need to make a large
incision in the abdomen. People can live a normal life without their
appendix—no changes in diet, exercise, or other lifestyle factors are