Appendicitis involves inflammation of the appendix which is a small-sized tube about 2 inches in length that is connected to the farthest end of the colon. Even today, the exact cause of most cases is still unknown.
The appendix and colon are positioned in the lower right flank of the abdomen. This area is close to where the small bowel connects to the large bowel. The appendix has long been considered as an insignificant organ with minor function. Nevertheless, recent findings indicate that it has a role in the development and maturation of the immune system. Yet still, one can still function without any issues if the appendix is surgically removed.
Characteristic of appendicitis
Throughout the years, appendicitis is the main cause of abdominal pain that necessitates surgery among young patients.
The pain originates in the middle of the abdomen close to the belly button. The pain tends to localize to the lower right abdominal region. It is aggravated by coughing or movement. In addition, there is also fever, nausea and vomiting.
How is it diagnosed?
Most cases of appendicitis are diagnosed based on the history and assessment of the individual. The right region is usually tender upon pressure due to the inflammation. The pain can also be intense that the abdominal wall resists the pressure which is called guarding.
The blood tests might reveal inflammation with an elevated white cell level. Among young individuals, surgery is required to get rid of the appendix using these findings alone.
Among older patients, other diagnoses might be similar to appendicitis such as Crohn’s disease. Colon cancer might also be mistaken as appendicitis while renal stones, ovarian cysts or urinary infections are other possible diagnoses.
If a diagnosis is doubtful, further assessment is required including an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound of the abdomen.
If an inflamed appendix is left untreated, it might rupture that can lead to peritonitis and can also be fatal. A delay in a diagnosis or surgical intervention can result to an abscess around the area which necessitates antibiotics and drainage. Remember that these complications increase the risk for scarring or adhesions in the abdominal area that can later on progress to bowel obstruction.
In most cases, surgical removal of the appendix is required. This often results to a significant boost in the recovery period. Among older individuals, colonoscopy is carried out after recovery to ensure that appendicitis was not due to a blockage from bowel cancer.