The appendix has been a source of trouble for a long time. In fact, sometimes it seems to have been placed in our bodies just to create havoc. For many years we have been told that the appendix doesn’t really have a job. Some of us consider it just an extra part. However, this organ, while only about 4 inches in length, can pose a significant danger if ignored. So, does the appendix have a purpose? Is that pain you have been having appendicitis? Can you avoid surgery if it is?
Let’s begin with figuring out what the appendix is. Without getting too technical, this finger-like organ gets its name for being shaped like a worm – it is roughly a 3 1/2 inch pouch of tissue connected to and protrudes from the large intestine. Recently, it has been found to be a helpful part of our immune system, and is believed to store good bacteria. While most people who have had this part removed see no real consequences, some doctors now believe that there is a greater risk of some diseases if you have had an appendectomy.
When this organ is healthy, no one pays it much attention. However, one little infection of the appendix and people suddenly take notice. As the infection builds, the appendix will become inflamed and the pain will become severe. If not taken care of, the offending organ may burst, causing a whole assortment of problems and possibly even death.
Appendicitis symptoms normally begin with a really bad stomach ache. For most people the whole abdomen area will hurt, often times accompanied with nausea. A fever is also a common complaint. Some people experience a fairly mild fever, while others find their fever is very high. Blood tests that are done during this time will usually find high white blood cells. Unfortunately, these symptoms can be true of many other infections and often cause difficulty when trying to diagnose this sickness.
As the appendix becomes worse, some new issues can present themselves. One of the most significant issues would be rebound pain. During the course of this illness, the pain that was once all around the stomach area, will usually move to the lower, right side of the abdomen. A patient will usually notice that this pain intensifies considerably when someone releases pressure on that side. In other words, when the doctor presses on their side, there may not be horrible pain, however, when he lets go, the pain is unbearable.
Trips to the ER with any kind of abdominal issues will normally begin with a complete healthy history. After that, patients can expect to be poked and prodded as the doctor checks all their physical symptoms. Blood and urine tests are usually standard also. Often times, doctors may use tests such as ultrasounds or CT scans, however, these do not always clearly show the appendix, and may miss the problem completely.
Doctors often choose to treat the symptoms differently. If all the symptoms are present and rebound pain is obvious, the decision is often made to go immediately to surgery. The risk of a ruptured appendix is far too great a concern making most doctors act cautiously. However, if the symptoms leave room for question, many healthcare professionals choose to have a patient remain in their care for observation. During this time, the doctor may give a course of IV antibiotics. Occasionally, if caught early enough or if the infection is not severe, antibiotics can knock out the infection in the appendix and help to avoid surgery for a time.
In reality, most patients whose appendix start giving them trouble end up in the operating room. While surgery is never fun, if the condition is caught in time, an appendectomy is a relatively minor surgery. In this day and time, it is normally a laparoscopic procedure followed most of the time by a one to two night stay in the hospital.
If you have symptoms of appendicitis, it is important to get to a doctor immediately. Treatment for appendicitis is almost always surgery, however, with today’s medical wisdom, it is normally an easier surgery to heal from. Waiting to see a doctor can cause severe complications. If, after you have had these symptoms, the pain seems to ease for a time or moves all over the abdomen again, or if your fever spikes very high, it is important to get help immediately.