Appendicitis

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis means inflammation of the appendix.

What are the Symptoms of Appendicitis?

The symptoms of appendicitis may vary, but pains in the stomach are always associated with the condition. It usually begins with central lower abdominal pain which gradually moves across to the lower right quadrant of the abdomen. This process can evolve over several hours and coincides with a gradual increase in the severity of pain. Eventually the pain intensifies to the point that medical assistance must be sought. Other signs to watch out for include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Raised body temperature
  • Flushed complexion

What are the Causes of Appendicitis?

It is thought that appendicitis begins when the opening from the appendix into the cecum becomes blocked. The blockage may be due to a build-up of thick mucus within the appendix or to stool that enters the appendix from the cecum. The mucus or stool hardens, becomes rock-like, and blocks the opening. This rock is called a fecalith (literally, a rock of stool). At other times, the lymphatic tissue in the appendix may swell and block the appendix. After the blockage occurs, bacteria which normally are found within the appendix begin to invade (infect) the wall of the appendix. The body responds to the invasion by mounting an attack on the bacteria, an attack called inflammation. An alternative theory for the cause of appendicitis is an initial rupture of the appendix followed by spread of bacteria outside the appendix.

Traditional Medical Treatments for Appendicitis

The treatment for acute appendicitis is surgical removal. This is performed under general anaesthesia. A short incision is made in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen on a line parallel with the groin crease. The appendix is manually removed through the incision and the opening is stitched up with surgical thread. The thread may be of dissolvable material, which does not need to be removed subsequently. Alternatively non-dissolvable thread or surgical clips may be used which need to be removed approximately one week later. Increasing numbers of appendicectomy (removal of the appendix) are performed through ‘keyhole’ surgery. This involves the creation of a smaller surgical incision and results in speedier postoperative recovery. It is likely that this will become the surgical procedure of choice in most uncomplicated appendicectomies of the future A two to three-day hospital stay is all that is required. It may be even less for the keyhole procedure. The patient is allowed home when their temperature and bowel function returns to normal. Provided there are no post operative complications, normal duties can be resumed after a four-week period of convalescence.

Complementary/Alternative Treatments for Appendicitis

Some treatments may alleviate pain after surgery. speak to a specialist