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Appendix

Appendectomy

What is the appendix?

Appendix and other organs of the digestive tract

The appendix is a small, narrow, finger-shaped portion of the large intestine that generally hangs down from the intestine in the lower right side of the abdomen.

What is appendicitis and what causes it?

Appendicitis is a sudden inflammation of the appendix. Although the appendix does not seem to serve any purpose, it can become diseased and, if untreated, can burst, causing infection and even death.

The cause of appendicitis is usually unknown. Appendicitis may occur after a viral infection in the digestive tract or when the tube connecting the large intestine and appendix is blocked or trapped by stool. It is thought that blockage of the opening of the appendix into the bowel by a hard, small stool fragment causes inflammation and infection of the appendix (appendicitis). The inflammation can cause infection, a blood clot, or rupture of the appendix.

The infected appendix must then be surgically removed (emergency appendectomy) before a hole develops in the appendix and spreads the infection to the entire abdominal space.

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

  • Abdominal pain — pain may begin in the upper-middle abdomen then develop to sharp localized pain
  • Abdominal pain may be worse when walking or coughing
  • Fever usually occurs within several hours
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Rectal tenderness
  • Chills and shaking

How is appendicitis treated?

The best treatment of appendicitis is the surgical removal of the appendix, an appendectomy. Doctors use either an “open” technique or a minimally invasive laparoscopic or robotic approach to remove the appendix.

Appendicitis is considered an emergency and anyone with symptoms needs to see a doctor immediately!