Appendicitis usually occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed. This can be caused by something trapped in the appendix, such as:
A piece of dried stool
A piece of food
Barium after a diagnostic exam
Overgrowth of the lymph tissue of the appendix
The lining of the appendix continues to produce mucus, but it has no place to go. Bacteria normally found in the intestines multiply and make toxins in the lining of the appendix. Pressure builds and causes severe pain in the abdomen. The wall of the appendix can break open. If the appendix ruptures, its contents can spill into the abdominal cavity. This causes serious inflammation in the abdominal cavity called
, which can be fatal.
These factors increase your chance of developing appendicitis:
Age: teen years
Family members who have had appendicitis
Symptoms usually come on suddenly. Pain generally increases during a 6- to 12-hour period. Patients may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
Starts as discomfort around the belly button
Usually moves to the right side of the abdomen over several hours
May be in a different location if the appendix is not in the usual place
Increases as inflammation in the appendix builds
Worsens with sneezing, coughing, and deep breathing
—These tests, which are only helpful in cases of late appendicitis, are used to look for signs of an inflamed appendix or abscess that may be causing the pain.
—A thin, lighted tube is inserted through a small incision near the belly button.
Appendicitis is treated by surgically removing the appendix as soon as possible. If the diagnosis is not certain, the doctor will carefully monitor your condition for 6-12 hours before operating. You will also be given antibiotics to fight infection.
Researchers are studying to see if surgery can be avoided in certain cases. For example, in a study, patients were treated with intravenous antibiotics and observed, rather than having surgery right away.
If you are diagnosed with appendicitis, follow your doctor's
There are no guidelines for preventing appendicitis because it comes on suddenly and the cause is usually unknown. To decrease the risk of rupture, get medical care right away for severe abdominal pain.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
. Accessed January 27, 2009.
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Textbook of Surgery.
15th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co.; 1997.
*¹7/13/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Styrud J, Eriksson S, Nilsson I, et al. Appendectomy versus antibiotic treatment in acute appendicitis. a prospective multicenter randomized controlled trial.
World J Surg.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a