Appendicitis: Signs, symptoms, and treatment

Appendicitis is a condition where the appendix becomes swollen, inflamed, and filled with pus. The appendix is a small finger-shaped pouch on the right side of the abdomen, connected to the colon.

The exact role of the appendix is not clear. It may be an area that hosts friendly bacteria, which help digestion and fight infection.

It may also be related to the immune system and influence the body’s ability to fight off infection.

Appendicitis probably happens because either a stomach infection moves to the appendix or a hard piece of stool becomes trapped in the appendix, causing infection

Appendicitis can occur at any age, most commonly ranging from older children to adults in their 30s. It most commonly occurs in the second decade of life. More than 250,000 appendectomies (removal of the appendix) are performed in the United States each year.

Fast facts on appendicitis

Scientists are still debating the function of the appendix.

Symptoms of appendicitis include a progressively worsening pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Often, surgery is the best course of action.

More than a quarter of a million Americans have an appendectomy each year.

Signs and symptoms

Person holding stomach because of appendicitis pain in abdomen.
Anyone who experiences a progressively worsening pain in the abdomen should seek medical attention.

The first sign of appendicitis is often pain across the abdominal area.

As the infection progresses, the location of the pain becomes more defined in the lower right-hand side of the abdomen, an area known as McBurney’s point.

The following symptoms are common:

progressively worsening pain

painful coughing or sneezing

nausea

vomiting

diarrhea

inability to pass gas (break wind)

fever

constipation

loss of appetite

Anybody who experiences a progressively worsening pain in the abdomen should seek medical attention. Other conditions may have similar symptoms, such as a urinary tract infection. Even so, they all require urgent medical attention.

Surgeons working in operating theatre
Surgical removal of the appendix is known as an appendectomy.

Laparoscopic, keyhole, or minimally invasive surgery (MIS) involves the following steps:

The surgeon inserts a very thin tube, or laparoscope, which has a tiny video camera and light, into the abdomen, through a hollow instrument known as a cannula.

The surgeon can view the inside of the abdomen, magnified, on a monitor.

Tiny instruments respond to the movements of the surgeon’s hands, and the appendix is removed through small abdominal incisions.

This is a precise operation, and there is minimal loss of blood and a small incision. As a result, recovery time is faster than with open surgery, and there is less scarring.

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