Inflamed Organ Must Be Removed
The appendix is a small pocket of intestine that extends from teh cecum, the first section of the large intestine. It is approximately 8-10 centimeters (three inches) long. This tiny section of intesting has no known function. Some researchers believe that the appendix served to digest cellulose in early man’s diet. For reasons not entirely understood, the appendix can become inflamed, a condition that is known as appendicitis. The most common symptoms of appendicitis are pain in the lower right side of the abdomen, pain on the right side when the left side of the abdomen is depressed, and rigid or stiff abdominal muscles. An inflamed appendix that is not treated may rupture and cause infection throughout the body. The problem arises when people do not complain if they experience symptoms of appendicitis. Therefore, early diagnosis and surgery to remove the inflamed appendix are necessary if serious complications are to be avoided.
The appendix may become inflamed after a viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract, or when it is blocked off from the large intestine by stool or by a foreign object that has been swallowed.
Surgery Is the Only Treatment
The appendix is a small pocket of large intestine, only about three inches long, that extends down from the first section of the large intestine on the lower right side of the abdomen. It serves no known purpose, but can lead to serious problems if it becomes inflamed. Appendicitis, or inflammation of the appendix, is most often seen in people in their late teens or early twenties and is more common in males than females. The appendix may become inflamed after a viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract, or when it is blocked off from the large intestine by stool or by a foreign object that has been swallowed. The inflammation may lead to infection and potentially serious consequences if not treated promptly. If an infected appendix ruptures, or breaks open, the infected material will spread inside the abdomen. This situation is more serious, since it makes the removal of the appendix more difficult and the risk of complications greater. A ruptured appendix can occur less than 24 hours after symptoms begin.
Symptoms: Unfortunately, the symptoms of appendicitis can mimic a gastrointestinal virus. Another problem is that not all patients with appendicitis have symptoms, especially early in the course of the disease. Very young children and older patients often do not complain of the most common symptoms. The three most important symptoms that point to a diagnosis are pain in the lower right abdomen, a rigid or stiff abdominal muscle wall, and the movement of pain to the right side of the abdomen when the left side is depressed. Not every patient has all these symptoms. Other common symptoms of appendicitis include nausea and vomiting after the abdominal pain begins; loss of appetite; constipation; diarrhea; low fever; swelling of the abdomen, especially in infants; and difficulty or frequency of urination. In children under age 2, common symptoms are vomiting and a distended abdomen.
Diagnosis and Treatment: The diagnosis of appendicitis is made after a thorough physical exam and after taking a white blood cell count and urine sample to look for infection. Sometimes, an x-ray, ultrasound, or CT scan of the abdomen will help the doctor see the inflammation in the appendix, but these may not be helpful in the early stages. The diagnosis must be made without delay since early surgery is necessary to avoid complications of a ruptured appendix. Surgical removal of the appendix, or appendectomy, is the only treatment. In addition to the classic surgical removal of the appendix, which leaves a tell-tale scar, doctors can also use a laparoscope to avoid large incisions in the abdomen. With laparoscopy, small cuts in the abdomen are made, and a tiny camera and surgical instruments are inserted to remove the appendix. In uncomplicated cases, most patients will receive antibiotics briefly before and after surgery to prevent infection. In the case of a ruptured appendix, the patient will receive antibiotics for a longer time since the infection has spread into the abdomen. If an abscess, or large area of infection, has formed, surgery may not be performed until the abscess is drained or has healed. Appendicitis is a serious condition that cannot be ignored or treated at home. If you or anyone in your family has symptoms similar to those of appendicitis, call your doctor immediately. Do not take pain medications, use laxatives, or eat food unless instructed to do so. Early diagnosis and surgical removal of an inflamed appendix can prevent serious complications.