Appendicitis is inflammation of your appendix.
Appendicitis most commonly occurs in the teens and twenties but may occur at any age.
If appendicitis is not treated, it may lead to complications. The complications of a ruptured appendix are
Other symptoms of appendicitis may include
Symptoms can be different for each person and can seem like the following conditions that also cause pain in the abdomen:
Appendicitis can have more than one cause, and in many cases, the cause is not clear. Possible causes include:
Appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. See a health care professional or go to the emergency room right away if you think you or a child has appendicitis. A doctor can help treat appendicitis and reduce symptoms and the chance of complications.
Most often, health care professionals suspect the diagnosis of appendicitis based on your symptoms, your medical history, and a physical exam. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis with an ultrasound, x-ray, or MRI exam.
A health care professional will ask specific questions about your symptoms and health history to help rule out other health problems. The health care professional will want to know
Health care professionals need specific details about the pain in your abdomen to diagnose appendicitis correctly. A health care professional will assess your pain by touching or applying pressure to specific areas of your abdomen.
The following responses to touch or pressure may indicate that you have appendicitis:
A health care professional draws your blood for a blood test at a doctor's office or a commercial facility. The health care professional sends the blood sample to a lab for testing. Blood tests can show a high white blood cell count, a sign of infection. Blood tests also may show dehydration or fluid and electrolyte imbalances.
Urinalysis is testing of a urine sample. You will provide a urine sample in a special container in a doctor's office, a commercial facility, or a hospital. Health care professionals can test the urine in the same location or send it to a lab for testing. Doctors use urinalysis to rule out a urinary tract infection or a kidney stone.
For women, health care professionals also may order blood or urine samples to check for pregnancy.
In ultrasound, a health care professional uses a device, called a transducer, to bounce safe, painless sound waves off of your organs to create an image of their structure. He or she can move the transducer to different angles to examine different organs.
In an abdominal ultrasound, a health care professional applies a gel to your abdomen and moves a hand-held transducer over your skin. A health care professional performs this procedure in a doctor's office, an outpatient center, or a hospital, and you don't need anesthesia.
A radiologist reviews the images, which can show signs of
MRI machines use radio waves and magnets to produce detailed pictures of your body's internal organs and soft tissues without using x-rays.
A health care professional performs the procedure in an outpatient center or a hospital. A radiologist reviews the images. Patients don't need anesthesia, although a health care professional may give light sedation, taken by mouth, to children and people with a fear of small spaces. A health care professional may inject a special dye, called contrast medium, into your body.
In most cases, you'll lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped device. The tunnel may be open-ended or closed at one end.
An MRI can show signs of
A health care professional may give you a solution to drink and an injection of a contrast medium. You'll lie on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped device that takes the x-rays. X-ray technicians perform CT scans in an outpatient center or a hospital. Radiologists review the images.
Patients don't need anesthesia, although health care professionals may give children a sedative to help them fall asleep for the test.
A CT scan of the abdomen can show signs of inflammation, such as
Doctors typically treat appendicitis with surgery to remove the appendix. Surgeons perform the surgery in a hospital with general anesthesia. Your doctor will recommend surgery if you have continuous abdominal pain and fever, or signs of a burst appendix and infection. Prompt surgery decreases the chance that your appendix will burst.
Health care professionals call the surgery to remove the appendix an appendectomy. A surgeon performs the surgery using one of the following methods:
During laparoscopic surgery, surgeons use several smaller incisions and special surgical tools that they feed through the incisions to remove your appendix. Laparoscopic surgery leads to fewer complications, such as hospital-related infections, and has shorter recovery time.
Surgeons use laparotomy to remove the appendix through a single incision in the lower right area of your abdomen.
After surgery, most patients completely recover from appendicitis and don't need to make changes to their diet, exercise, or lifestyle. Surgeons recommend that you limit physical activity for the first 10 to 14 days after a laparotomy and for the first 3 to 5 days after laparoscopic surgery.
In some cases, a surgeon finds a normal appendix during surgery. In this case, many surgeons will remove it to eliminate the future possibility of appendicitis. Sometimes surgeons find a different problem, which they may correct during surgery.
Some cases of mild appendicitis may be cured with antibiotics alone. All patients suspected of having appendicitis are treated with antibiotics before surgery, and some patients may improve completely before surgery is performed.
Treating the complications of a burst appendix will depend on the type of complication. In most cases of peritonitis, a surgeon will remove your appendix immediately with surgery. The surgeon will use laparotomy to clean the inside of your abdomen to prevent infection and then remove your appendix. Without prompt treatment, peritonitis can cause death.
Surgeon may drain the pus from an appendiceal abscess during surgery or, more commonly, before surgery. To drain an abscess, the surgeon places a tube in the abscess through the abdominal wall. You leave the drainage tube in place for about 2 weeks while you take antibiotics to treat the infection. When the infection and inflammation are under control, about 6 to 8 weeks later, surgeons operate to remove what remains of the burst appendix.