Your appendix is one of those body parts that you don’t give much thought to until something goes wrong, and things can go terribly wrong with this organ. Each year, about a quarter-million people in the United States, mostly between ages 20 and 30, develop acute appendicitis, which we consider a medical emergency.
To help you recognize the warning signs of appendicitis, the team of skilled general surgeons here at Rockwall Surgical Specialists focus on this condition in this month's blog post. Here’s a closer look at your appendix, what happens when appendicitis develops, and what your treatment options are.
The not-so-useful appendix
Your appendix is a thin tube that’s attached to your large intestine, or colon, and is located in the lower right side of your abdomen. When you were a young child, this organ helped support your immune system, but, as an adult, your appendix is largely inactive and plays no role in your health.
In many cases, appendicitis is the result of an infection in your appendix, which can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasites in your digestive system. Outside of infection, appendicitis can occur if something blocks the tube, such as growths or a segment of hardened stool. Appendicitis is also linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
Whatever causes the infection or blockage, our primary concern is rupture of your appendix. This can lead to peritonitis and life-threatening sepsis as the infection is no longer contained and can easily spread throughout your body.
Symptoms of appendicitis
The most common warning sign of a brewing problem in your appendix is abdominal pain. This pain may start around the middle of your abdomen, near your belly button. The pain usually travels to the right side and can quickly get worse and flare up when you move in certain ways, cough, or even breathe deeply.
Outside of pain, you may also experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Inability to pass gas
- Swelling in your abdomen
- Constipation or diarrhea
It’s worth noting that not everyone who develops appendicitis experiences severe and hard-to-ignore pain. In some cases, and especially among children, there may only be minor discomfort, which is why it’s important to get checked out.
Whether the pain is severe or mild, seeking prompt medical attention is the best course of action.
In most cases, an appendectomy (surgical removal of the appendix) is the best course of action when it comes to appendicitis as you don’t want to run the risk of the appendix bursting. Less often, the infection can be treated with antibiotics, but the risk for a recurring infection within a year ranges from 15% to 41%.
If you opt for surgery to avoid rupture and future problems with infections, we want to assure you that we can perform an appendectomy using minimally invasive techniques that reduce your risks and decrease recovery time.
With laparoscopic surgery, we only need to make a few small incisions, through which we thread the laparoscope to view your appendix. We then turn to tiny, specialized instruments that translate the movements of our hands to remove your appendix.
Thanks to the small incisions, we can minimize collateral tissue damage and reduce blood loss, and your recovery time is much shorter than traditional surgery because there are only a few small incisions.
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one might have appendicitis, we urge you to seek medical help as soon as possible. When you need surgery, contact us at one of our locations in Rowlett, Rockwall, Greenville, Terrell, and Forney, Texas.