The appendix is a small finger-like appendage located where the small and large intestines meet. The functional reason for it is unknown but sometimes it becomes inflamed and can cause severe pain,requiring removal.
Symptoms of appendicitis
Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix that can occur in anyone but typically presents in people between the ages of 10 and 30. The infection leads to inflammation, swelling, and the formation of puss. If left untreated, the appendix can eventually rupture.
Pain may start suddenly and present on the lower right-hand side of the abdomen. Other symptoms may include:
- Pain that worsens as you cough or move
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Abdominal bloating
- Low-grade fever that may progress as the infection worsens
The site of the pain may vary depending on certain factors such as age or pregnancy but severe abdominal pain requires immediate medical attention.
Determining if surgery is needed
Appendicitis is a medical emergency that needs to be treated quickly to reduce the risk of complications. To diagnose appendicitis, your doctor will take a full medical history and perform a physical exam.Tests to diagnose appendicitis include:
- Physical exam – assess stomach pain and response to pressure over the inflamed appendix
- Blood test–a blood test may be performed to measure white blood cell counts, indicating a potential infection
- Urine test–a urine test may be given to rule out other potential causes of the abdominal pain like a urinary tract infection or kidney stones
- Imaging tests – other imaging tests, abdominal x-ray, ultrasound, or CT may help confirm appendicitis and rule out other potential causes
How the surgery is performed
There are two types of surgeries that can be used to remove the appendix, open or laparoscopic appendectomies.
Open appendectomy – the appendix is removed from a two-to-four-inch incision on the lower right-hand side of the abdomen
Laparoscopic appendectomy–several small incisions are made in the abdomen and surgical tools, including a camera, are inserted into the incisions to help guide the doctor during surgery
Generally, laparoscopic surgery has a faster recovery with less pain and scarring; however, a laparoscopic procedure may not be appropriate for all patients. The open method may be required if your appendix has ruptured or if you have a severe infection that has spread, but your doctor will discuss options before performing the procedure.