DefinitionThe appendix is a small, tube-like organ that hangs from the large intestine. Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. The appendix has no known function.
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CausesAppendicitis usually occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. This can be caused by something trapped in the appendix, such as:
- A piece of dried stool
- A piece of food
- Scar tissue
- Barium after an exam
- Overgrowth of the lymph tissue of the appendix
Risk FactorsAppendicitis is more common in men and teenagers.You are at increased risk of developing appendicitis if you have family members who have had appendicitis.
SymptomsSymptoms usually happen quickly. Pain usually increases during a 6-12 hour period. Patients may have some or all of the following symptoms:
- Starts as discomfort around the belly button
- Usually moves to the right side of the abdomen over several hours
- May be in a different location if the appendix is not in the usual place
- Increases as redness and swelling in the appendix builds
- Worsens with sneezing, coughing, and deep breathing
- May increase with movement
- Loss of appetite
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Abdomen feels hard and is sensitive to touch
- Mild diarrhea
- Slight fever
- Pain becoming stronger and spreading across the abdomen
- Increasing fever
DiagnosisIf you have severe pain in the abdomen, get medical help right away. Appendicitis can be hard to diagnose. Symptoms vary and can be similar to symptoms of other diseases.You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done, including:
- A careful examination of the abdomen
- A rectal exam
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
TreatmentAppendicitis may be treated by surgically removing the appendix as soon as possible. Sometimes the diagnosis is not certain. Your condition will be carefully monitored for 6-12 hours before operating. You will also be given antibiotics to fight infection. Sometimes appendicitis does not need to be treated with surgery and you will just be given antibiotics.
PreventionThere are no guidelines to prevent appendicitis. It starts quickly and the cause is usually unknown. Get medical care right away for severe abdominal pain. It will decrease the risk of rupture.
American College of Surgeons
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Appendectomy. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.facs.org/public%5Finfo/operation/brochures/app.pdf. Updated 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Appendicitis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 27, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Appendicitis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/appendicitis/. Accessed December 1, 2014.
Diagnosis of appendicitis in emergency departments. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67:2390.
JAMA patient page: appendicitis. JAMA. 1999;282:1102.
7/13/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Styrud J, Eriksson S, Nilsson I, et al. Appendectomy versus antibiotic treatment in acute appendicitis. a prospective multicenter randomized controlled trial. World J Surg. 2006;30:1033-1037.
5/27/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: McCutcheon BA, Chang DC, et al. Long-term outcomes of patients with nonsurgically managed uncomplicated appendicitis. J Am Coll Surg. 2014 May;218(5):905-913.
6/23/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Choosing wisely. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 26, 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/20/2014
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