Appendix is a worm like structure protruding from the initial part of the large intestine. At times, when the contents of the intestine blocks the appendix, it gets inflamed. We call this appendicitis (= appendix + itis; “itis” stands for redness and swelling).
Appendix has no known function. However, bursting of inflamed appendix can be fatal. Hence,if the appendix becomes errant, the best course of action is to cut it out. The surgical procedure to remove inflamed appendix is called appendicectomy. It is easily the most common surgical procedure performed.
Causes of Appendicitis
Although the exact cause of appendicitis is not known, blockage of the appendix due to the following reasons results in the disease condition:
Low Fiber Diet
Fiber in diet helps in easy passage of stools. Avoiding or decreased intake of these may cause hardening of stools. Small particles of these hard stools get trapped inside the appendix causing a blockage. This blockage further causes swelling and infection resulting in Appendicitis.
Decreased passage of stools for a long time may also cause the stools to get trapped within the appendix, leading to appendicitis.
Not drinking enough water also leads to formation of hard stools which may cause the block.
Abnormal growth of normal tissue, either within appendix or around the appendix, can cause compression of the appendix and lead to blockage.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
Here are the most common symptoms of Appendicitis:
- Pain around the belly button which later moves to the right lower abdomen.
- Lack of hunger
- Vomiting or sensation to vomit
When a patient complaints of abdominal pain in his or her right lower abdomen, a doctor’s first suspicion would be appendicitis since this is the most common condition with pain in this part of the abdomen. Along with this, blood tests are done to confirm the diagnosis.
Once the doctor has enough reason to suspect appendicitis, he or she usually orders an ultrasound scan carried out. Ultrasound is preferred over other imaging procedures, specially for young patients, because of the lack of ionizing radiation.
In case of ambiguity with the ultrasound scan, or if the appendix seem to have ruptured, the surgeon might order a CT Scan to be taken.
Treatments for Appendicitis
In the early stages of the disease, antibiotics may be used to treat the infection caused by appendicitis. When a patient is put on medication, they are usually kept under watch. If the condition worsens or does not improve, an appendicectomy is immediately recommended.
The Gold standard treatment for appendicitis is surgical removal of inflamed appendix. This procedure is called appendicectomy. As we mentioned before, appendix has no known function. Besides ruptured appendix can be life threatening. So, getting rid of an inflamed appendix is often considered a stitch in time.
Prevention of appendicitis
There are no fail-proof ways to prevent an appendicitis from occurring. However, certain life style changes may have some marginal effect:
- Eating diet rich in fiber
- Drinking at least 2 liters of water per day
- Exercising regularly
First in the World: Single port Appendectomy in situs inversus.
Dr. J. S. Rajkumar
M.S., F.I.C.S., Dip. N.B. (SURG.), F.R.C.S. (ENG.), F.R.C.S. (EDIN.), F.R.C.S. (GLASGOW), F.R.C.S. (IRELAND), F.I.M.S., F.A.I.S., F.R.M.S. (LONDON), F.A.E. (GASTRO), F.A.C.G. (USA), F.I.C.A. (USA), F.I.A.G.E.S., Dip M.I.S. (FR.)
Dr. R. Prabhakaran
Consultant Surgical Gastroenterology
M.B.B.S., M.S. (GENERAL SURGERY), M.Ch. (SGE), DLAP, FACRASI
Dr. S. Akbar
Consultant General and Laparoscopic Surgery
M.B.B.S., M.S (GENERAL SURGERY), D.MAS, F.MAS.