Diagnosis of Appendicitis

By  , Expert Content
Oct 03, 2012

Diagnosis of Appendicitis

Appendicitis may be diagnosed clinically based on symptoms and clinical examination. Lab tests and, sometimes, imaging tests are done to confirm the diagnosis. In young children, elderly and pregnant women, the symptoms and examination findings may not be clear and appendicitis can be difficult to diagnose.


Medical history:
The doctor may ask you questions about your symptoms such as:

  • When did the pain start? Is the pain dull or sharp?
  • Do you have nausea and vomiting?
  • Do you have fever?
  • Do you have any other symptom such as pain while passing urine, change in bowel habits i.e. constipation or diarrhoea with gas.


[Read: Tips to Prevent Appendicitis]


Physical exam

The doctor will examine you especially the abdomen. He or she will palpate (push on different parts of your abdomen) to locate the site of pain. The doctor will especially focus on the lower right quadrant of the abdomen if appendicitis is suspected as this is where most people feel pain in appendicitis.

The doctor may also do digital rectal examination. In this examination, the doctor inserts a gloved finger into your anus to help locate the site and cause of your pain. Pelvic exam may be done in women to rule out other problems.


[Read: Treatment Options for Appendicitis]

Lab tests

There is no specific lab test to diagnose appendicitis. Blood test such as complete blood count (CBC) is done to look for signs of infection. If you have vomiting, blood electrolytes will be done to check if they are deranged due to vomiting.

In some cases, urine test may be done to make sure that a urinary tract infection or kidney stone is not the cause of your symptoms.

Pregnancy test may be done in woman to make sure she is not pregnant and the symptoms are not caused due to some complication of pregnancy.

Imaging tests

CT scan:
CT scan (computed tomography scan) is a painless and non-invasive test, which takes a series of detailed pictures of different parts of the body that are being examined. It may be done if the diagnosis of appendicitis is uncertain. CT is more accurate compared with ultrasound for the diagnosis of appendicitis.

This is a painless and non-invasive test. It uses high-frequency sound waves that cannot be heard by human ears to obtain information from the structures inside the body. The pattern of the echoes produced when the sound waves are reflected from the internal structure creates a picture called a sonogram. The radiologist can differentiate healthy appendix and abnormal patterns on this picture. In some cases, however, the appendix may not be seen with an ultrasound. The test is preferred in pregnant women, who cannot have a CT scan.


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