What is Appendicitis?

By  , Expert Content
Feb 01, 2012

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Appendicitis is the term used to denote infection and inflammation of the appendix. Appendix is a small finger-shaped structure (3 1/2-inch-long tube of tissue) that protrudes from the large intestines on the right side. It contains a membrane, which secretes mucus and a specialised tissue that can produce antibodies. The exact function of appendix is not known, but a person can live without it without apparent consequences.

What Causes Appendicitis?

Appendix becomes inflamed when it is blocked, often, by stool, a foreign body or cancer. In some cases, the blockage may occur due to infection, since the appendix swells in response to any infection in the body. When the appendix becomes inflamed and swollen, the blood supply to the structure is affected. The infection, reduced blood supply and rise in pressure inside the appendix can cause it to burst if it is not treated timely.

Who is at risk of appendicitis?

Age has been shown to be the most common risk factor of appendicitis. Experts say that this is most common reason for abdominal surgery in children. Research indicates that four of every 1,000 children younger than 14 undergo appendectomy to remove their appendix. The most common age group in which appendicitis occurs is between the age of 15 and 30. It rarely occurs in children younger than 2 years of age.

Treatment of appendicitis

Surgery to remove the appendix (appendectomy) is the only treatment in case of appendicitis. Aim of the treatment is to remove the appendix before it ruptures and the infection goes into the abdomen (peritonitis). Appendectomy is usually done as soon as possible after diagnosis as an untreated and inflamed appendix may burst or perforate and lead to a spread of the infection into the abdominal cavity thereby leading to peritonitis. Appendicitis is one of the most common emergency surgical procedures.


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