Appendicitis is a condition that occurs when the appendix, a small finger-shaped pouch located in the lower right abdomen and connected to the large intestine, becomes inflamed. When the appendix becomes inflamed, it can cause severe pain and, if left untreated, can lead to serious complications. Appendicitis can affect anyone but most frequently affects people between 10 and 30.The unhealthy appendix is typically removed surgically as part of treatment (appendectomy), otherwise, the appendix may rupture and result in a fatal, widespread infection 48 to 72 hours after you first experience symptoms. If you experience persistent stomach discomfort, see your doctor. Sometimes treating appendicitis with antibiotics alone is sufficient.
What are the symptoms of appendicitis?
1. Abdominal pain in the lower right abdomen
2. Abdominal discomfort that worsens with movement or coughing
3. Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
4. Mild fever
5. Abdominal bloating
6. Diarrhea or constipation
The symptoms may differ from person to person, and some people may not experience all of them. Consult a doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
What are the causes of appendicitis?
It is not always clear what causes appendicitis, but it is believed to happen when the opening of the appendix becomes obstructed, causing inflammation and infection.
The following are some typical reasons for appendiceal blockage:
- Hardened fecal matter can obstruct the opening of the appendix.
- The lymphoid tissue in the appendix can become enlarged due to infection, which can block the appendix.
- Foreign objects, such as small pieces of food, may enter the appendix and cause a blockage.
- Intestinal worms may migrate into the appendix and cause an obstruction in rare cases.
It’s crucial to understand that obstruction is not the cause of every incidence of appendicitis. Appendicitis may also be caused by other factors, including bacterial infection and genetic predisposition.
How is appendicitis diagnosed?
As the symptoms of appendicitis can differ from person to person, diagnosing the condition can be difficult. However, there are several diagnostic techniques that medical professionals may employ to detect appendicitis.
During the consultation, the doctor will review your medical history, ask about your symptoms, and do a physical examination. They may order a blood test to check for signs of infection by looking for an elevated white blood cell count or a urine test to make sure that a kidney stone or a urinary tract infection is not the source of your pain. The doctor may also order imaging tests like a CT scan to visualize and assess the appendix for signs of inflammation.
When other diagnostic tests are inconclusive, a diagnostic laparoscopy may be carried out to view the appendix directly and examine its health.
How is appendicitis treated?
Surgical treatment options
The most common kind of appendicitis treatment is an appendectomy, which involves surgically removing the inflamed appendix. You will receive intravenous (IV) antibiotics before having your appendix removed to treat the infection. Additionally, you will probably receive general anesthesia, which will put you to sleep throughout the procedure.
There are two ways to do an appendectomy:
1. Open surgery: In open surgery, the appendix is removed by a single incision made in the lower right abdomen. Open surgery may be chosen in some cases, such as when the appendix has ruptured or when there are complications. It can also be required if the patient has previously undergone abdominal surgery, which makes laparoscopic surgery more difficult.
2. Laparoscopic surgery: During laparoscopic surgery, a thin tube with a camera called a laparoscope is placed into several small abdominal incisions to guide the surgical instruments. One of the small incisions is then used to remove the appendix. Compared to open surgery, laparoscopic surgery is less invasive and typically results in shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery times, and less scarring.
In some cases, drainage surgery may be required before an appendectomy if the appendix has already ruptured and created an abscess to empty the abscess and manage the infection. The appendix can be removed via open or laparoscopic surgery once the infection has been under control.
Non-surgical treatment options
When the diagnosis of appendicitis is unclear, or patients are not good surgical candidates due to specific medical issues, non-surgical treatment may be appropriate.
1. Antibiotics: To treat the infection and lessen inflammation in some cases of uncomplicated appendicitis, antibiotics may be recommended.
2. Observation: For patients with moderate symptoms, the doctor may decide to carefully monitor the patient’s condition with routine check-ups and imaging tests to evaluate if the symptoms get better or worsen.
Non-surgical methods are not typically advised as the primary line of treatment for appendicitis. To reduce the risk of complications, surgical removal of the appendix is still the usual treatment for most appendicitis cases.
What should I expect after an appendectomy?
Following laparoscopic surgery, some patients return home the same day and can resume their regular, active lives within two to three weeks. Following open surgery, the hospital stay for patients will be longer, possibly even a week. If your appendix ruptures, you might require long-term antibiotic treatment to entirely eradicate the infection, which could take you six weeks or longer to heal.
After the appendectomy, it is important to take the prescribed pain management medications as instructed and to take good care of the incision site to avoid infection. The doctor will provide instructions on how to take care of the incision, change dressings as needed, and avoid activities that might put too much strain on it.
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