The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch of intestinal tissue located at the junction of the small intestine (cecum) and large intestine (colon).
If the appendix becomes infected (appendicitis), the infected appendix must be surgically removed (emergency appendectomy) before a hole develops in the appendix (perforation) and spreads the infection to the entire abdominal space (peritonitis).
Symptoms of acute appendicitis include:
- Pain: abdominal pain (usually located in the lower right side)
- Fever (elevated temperature)
- Reduced appetite (anorexia)
- Nausea; vomiting
The doctor will:
- Check your abdomen for tenderness and tightness
- Check your rectum for tenderness
- Check your blood for an increase in white blood cells (WBC)
- Perform a pelvic exam in women, to exclude pain caused by the ovaries or uterus
If your doctors are uncertain about the diagnosis, they can perform a computed tomography (CT) scan to see if the appendix is inflamed.
While the patient is deep asleep and pain free, a small incision is made in the lower right side of the abdomen and the appendix is removed. In some cases, laparoscopic surgery can allow removal of the appendix through tiny incisions.
If a pocket of infection (abscess) has formed or the appendix has ruptured (perforated), the abdomen will be thoroughly washed out during surgery. The surgeon may then leave the incision open and allow it to heal together on its own (secondary intention), to allow the infection to drain or, more frequently, put in a small drainage tube.
Recovery from a simple appendectomy is usually complete and rapid. Most patients can go home the day after the operation, and resume normal diet and activities within one to two weeks. If the appendix has developed an abscess or has ruptured, the recovery may be slower and more complicated, requiring use of medications to treat the infection (antibiotics).
Living without an appendix does not cause any health problems.