The appendix is a small, tubular organ that branches off from the first part of the large intestine. When it becomes swollen (inflamed) or infected, the condition is called appendicitis.
If you’ve got appendicitis you’ll usually have pain that’s centered around the area of your belly button. At first the pain may be minor, but it can get very severe and will usually drift downward to the bottom right part of your abdomen. You may also have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation, and a low fever. Your pain may get better for a time. This relief can be misleading, though. Just when you think you’re getting better, your appendix may have actually burst. If that’s the case, the pain will get start to get more and more intense.
Other symptoms include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Fever (usually not very high)
- Nausea and vomiting
- Reduced appetite
If you have symptoms of appendicitis, seek medical help right away. DO NOT use heating pads, enemas, laxatives, or other home treatments to try to relieve symptoms.
To diagnose appendicitis, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and press on your abdomen, which will feel very tender. Blood tests, including a white blood cell count (WBC), may be done to check for infection. You may need imaging tests, such as a CT scan or ultrasound of your abdomen, so the doctor can see if the problem is with your appendix.
When you have appendicitis, your appendix may need to be removed. An appendix that has a hole in it can leak and infect the entire abdomen area. This can be life threatening.
The surgeon makes a small cut in the lower right side of your belly area and removes the appendix.
The appendix can also be removed using small surgical cuts and a camera. This is called a laparoscopic appendectomy.
If the appendix has burst or a pocket of infection (abscess) formed, your abdomen will be washed out during surgery. A small tube may be left in the belly area to help drain out fluids or pus.
Risks of anesthesia and surgery in general include:
- Reactions to medicines
- Problems breathing
- Bleeding, blood clots, or infection
- Buildup of pus (abscess), which may need draining and antibiotics
- Infection of the incision
- Occasionally there may be an injury to the bowel causing a peristent fecal deischarge or peritonitis
- If the infection has spread, even a part of small and large intestine may have to be removed during the surgery. In occassional severe cases, a stoma may need to be done for diversion of stools through an opening on your abdominal wall.
- Sometimes a second surgery may be needed for sepsis control
What to expect after the procedure?
Most people leave the hospital in 1 to 2 days after surgery. You can go back to your normal activities within 2 to 4 weeks after leaving the hospital.
If you had laparoscopic surgery, you will likely recover quickly. Recovery is slower and more complicated if your appendix has broken open or an abscess has formed.
Living without an appendix causes no known health problems.