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Disease & Condition

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a finger-shaped pouch that projects from your colon on the lower right side of your abdomen.

Appendicitis causes pain in your lower right abdomen. However, in most people, pain begins around the navel and then moves.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of appendicitis may include:

  • Sudden pain that begins on the right side of the lower abdomen
  • Sudden pain that begins around your navel and often shifts to your lower right abdomen
  • Pain that worsens if you cough, walk or make other jarring movements
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low-grade fever that may worsen as the illness progresses
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating

The site of your pain may vary, depending on your age and the position of your appendix. When you’re pregnant, the pain may seem to come from your upper abdomen because your appendix is higher during pregnancy.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with a doctor if you or your child has worrisome signs or symptoms. Severe abdominal pain requires immediate medical attention.

Causes

A blockage in the lining of the appendix that results in infection is the likely cause of appendicitis. The bacteria multiply rapidly, causing the appendix to become inflamed, swollen and filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the appendix can rupture.

Complications

Appendicitis can cause serious complications, such as:

  • A ruptured appendix. A rupture spreads infection throughout your abdomen (peritonitis). Possibly life-threatening, this condition requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and clean your abdominal cavity.
  • A pocket of pus that forms in the abdomen. If your appendix bursts, you may develop a pocket of infection (abscess).

Tests and diagnosis

  • To help diagnose appendicitis, your doctor will likely take a history of your signs and symptoms and examine your abdomen.
  • Physical exam to assess your pain. Your doctor may apply gentle pressure on the painful area. When the pressure is suddenly released, appendicitis pain will often feel worse, signaling that the adjacent peritoneum is inflamed.
  • Usually pathological test or imaging test are not required.

Treatments and drugs

Appendicitis treatment usually involves surgery to remove the inflamed appendix. Before surgery you may be given a dose of antibiotics to prevent infection.

Surgery to remove the appendix (appendectomy)

Draining an abscess before appendix surgery

If your appendix has burst and an abscess has formed around it, the abscess may be drained by placing a tube through your skin into the abscess. Appendectomy can be performed several weeks later after controlling the infection.

 

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