Appendicitis is a painful swelling of the appendix. The appendix is a small, thin pouch about 5-10cm (2-4 inches) long. It's connected to the large intestine, where stools (faeces) are formed.
Nobody knows exactly why we have an appendix, but removing it isn't harmful.
Appendicitis typically starts with a pain in the middle of your tummy (abdomen) that may come and go.
Within hours, the pain travels to the lower right-hand side, where the appendix usually lies, and becomes constant and severe.
Pressing on this area, coughing, or walking may all make the pain worse. You may lose your appetite, feel sick, and occasionally experience Traveller's diarrhoea .
If these options aren't available, call NHS 111 for advice.
You should call 999 for an ambulance if you have sudden pain that continues to get worse and spreads across your abdomen.
These are signs your appendix may have burst, which can lead to potentially life-threatening complications.
Removal of the appendix, known as an appendectomy or appendicectomy, is one of the most common operations in the UK and its success rate is excellent.
The operation is most commonly performed as keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) , which involves making several small cuts in your abdomen, through which special surgical instruments are inserted.
Open surgery, where a larger, single cut is made in the abdomen, is usually carried out if the appendix has burst or access is more difficult.
Most people make a full recovery from an appendectomy in a couple of weeks, although strenuous activities may need to be avoided for up to six weeks after open surgery.
Read moreabout treating appendicitis .
It's not exactly clear what the causes of appendicitis are. Most cases are thought to occur when somethingblocks the entrance of the appendix.
For example, a blockage may be formed by a small piece offaeces or an upper respiratory tract infection could lead toa swollen lymph node within the wall of the bowel.
This obstruction leads to the development of inflammation and swelling. The pressure caused by the swelling can then lead to the appendix bursting.
As the causes aren't fully understood, there's no guaranteed way of preventing appendicitis.
Appendicitis is a common condition. Around 40,000 people are admitted to hospital with appendicitis each year in England.
It's estimated around1 in every 13 people develop it at some point in their life.
Appendicitis can develop at any age, but it's most common in young people aged from 10 to 20 years old.
The appendix is a rudimentary 5-10 cm elongation at the end of the small intestine and at the beginning of the colon, which bears no known function.
The symptoms of appendicitis are not always uniform among patients. However, abdominal pain is always present. Usually this type of pain begins in the solar plexus, accompanied by nausea, and after a few hours, the pain becomes concentrated in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen, right next to the thigh. Symptoms include: 1. Nausea 2. Loss of apetite 3. Diarrhea 4. High fever 5. Flushed face
It is important that all patients suffering from any kind of severe abdominal pain which lasts for several hours and becomes worse over time, should refer themselves to a medical professional. When there are typical symptoms of appendicitis, the condition is easy to diagnose (abdominal pain, nausea, fever etc). These common symptoms are only present in half of the cases. There are cases of atypical appendicitis, which exhibit other symptoms, such as constipation, atypical pain, diarrhea, etc. In order to diagnose this condition, several examinations are conducted: 1. A blood test (usually shows elevated white blood cells) 2. A pregnancy test (in order to rule out a potential pregnancy) 3. A urine test (in order to check for infection) 4. Abdominal echo (in order to check for fluid in pouch of Douglas) 5. Scanner of the appendix (which will show the shape and size of the appendix)
If the diagnosis of appendicitis is confirmed, treatment is always surgical. This procedure is called an appendectomy. This procedure is conducted under general anesthesia, and it can be performed via a probe (laparoscopy), or via open surgery. The procedure involves removing the appendix. A laparoscopy is performed after blowing the abdomen up by blowing gas into it. This renders certain channels available, so that the physician may insert the laparoscope. Following this, the physician performs the procedure via a monitor. A laparoscopy is favorable, because it does not require open surgery, lowers risks and allows the patient to recover more efficiently. If the patient presents themselves too late at the hospitals, the bacteria from the infection in the appendix may spread to other organs in the abdomen (the appendix may burst), then treatment is rendered more complicated, and other medication needs to be used in conjunction to surgery, such as antibiotics to fight infection, analgesics to treat pain, antipyretics to treat the fever and intravenous injections etc.
Neglecting to pay the appropriate attention to a case of appendicitis can be life-threatening. The appendix may burst and cause peritonitis. Peritonitis is a very severe condition, which occurs as a consequence of the spread of bacteria from the burst of the infected appendix. The bacteria spread via the blood in the entire body. This causes inflammation of the peritoneum (the lining which covers all of the organs in the abdomen). Peritonitis has the following symptoms: severe pain spread all over the abdomen, the patient feels fatigue, very high fever, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), difficulties breathing, swelling and hardening of the abdomen, the patient is nearly in shock. This condition requires immediate surgical intervention. An appendectomy is performed, as well as a cleanse of the belly. Following this, that patient has to remain in hospital for a prolonged period in order to receive the proper medication. At times, following the surgical procedure, a small tube is left protruding from the stomach in order to allow for drainage of the infected fluids. This is then later removed.