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Appendicitis

Inflammation of the appendix.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases)

About Appendicitis

An obstruction, or blockage, of the appendiceal lumen causes appendicitis. Mucus backs up in the appendiceal lumen, causing bacteria that normally live inside the appendix to multiply. As a result, the appendix swells and becomes infected. Sources of blockage include

An inflamed appendix will likely burst if not removed... NIH - National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Antibiotic therapy compared to appendectomy in the treatment of acute appendicitis.

Acute appendicitis is one of the most common surgical causes of acute abdominal pain. Appendectomy is the treatment of choice, however surgical complications are inherent to operative treatment. Recent research on primary antibiotic therapy (without surgery) reported good results.

Laparoscopic ("key‐hole") surgery for appendicitis

In the right lower part of the abdomen there is a small blind ending intestinal tube, called appendix. Inflammation of the appendix is called appendicitis and is usually acute in onset. Appendicitis is most frequent in children and young adults. Most cases require emergency surgery, in order to avoid rupture of the appendix into the abdomen. During the operation, called appendectomy, the inflamed appendix is surgically removed. The traditional surgical approach involves a small incision (about 5 cm or 2 inches) in the right lower abdominal wall. Alternatively, it is possible to perform the operation by laparoscopy. This operation, called laparoscopic appendectomy, requires 3 very small incisions (each about 1 cm or 1/2 inch). The surgeon then introduces a camera and some instruments into the abdomen and removes the appendix as in the conventional operation.

Drain use after an open appendectomy for complicated appendicitis

Appendicitis refers to inflammation of the appendix. Appendectomy, the surgical removal of the appendix, is performed primarily in patients who have acute appendicitis. Patients undergoing an appendectomy for complicated appendicitis, which is defined as gangrenous (soft‐tissue death) or perforated (burst) appendicitis, are more likely to suffer from postoperative complications. The routine placement of a surgical drain to prevent intra‐peritoneal abscess (a localised collection of pus in the abdomen or pelvis) after an appendectomy for complicated appendicitis is controversial.

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Summaries for consumers

Antibiotic therapy compared to appendectomy in the treatment of acute appendicitis.

Acute appendicitis is one of the most common surgical causes of acute abdominal pain. Appendectomy is the treatment of choice, however surgical complications are inherent to operative treatment. Recent research on primary antibiotic therapy (without surgery) reported good results.

Laparoscopic ("key‐hole") surgery for appendicitis

In the right lower part of the abdomen there is a small blind ending intestinal tube, called appendix. Inflammation of the appendix is called appendicitis and is usually acute in onset. Appendicitis is most frequent in children and young adults. Most cases require emergency surgery, in order to avoid rupture of the appendix into the abdomen. During the operation, called appendectomy, the inflamed appendix is surgically removed. The traditional surgical approach involves a small incision (about 5 cm or 2 inches) in the right lower abdominal wall. Alternatively, it is possible to perform the operation by laparoscopy. This operation, called laparoscopic appendectomy, requires 3 very small incisions (each about 1 cm or 1/2 inch). The surgeon then introduces a camera and some instruments into the abdomen and removes the appendix as in the conventional operation.

Drain use after an open appendectomy for complicated appendicitis

Appendicitis refers to inflammation of the appendix. Appendectomy, the surgical removal of the appendix, is performed primarily in patients who have acute appendicitis. Patients undergoing an appendectomy for complicated appendicitis, which is defined as gangrenous (soft‐tissue death) or perforated (burst) appendicitis, are more likely to suffer from postoperative complications. The routine placement of a surgical drain to prevent intra‐peritoneal abscess (a localised collection of pus in the abdomen or pelvis) after an appendectomy for complicated appendicitis is controversial.

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Terms to know

Abdomen
The area between the chest and the hips containing the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen.
Appendectomy
Surgery to remove the appendix (small finger-shaped pouch at the end of the first part of the large intestine).
Gastrointestinal Tract (GI Tract)
The large, muscular tube that extends from the mouth to the anus, where the movement of muscles, along with the release of hormones and enzymes, allows for the digestion of food. Also called the alimentary canal or digestive tract.
Lumen
The cavity or channel within a tube or tubular organ such as a blood vessel or the intestine.
Lymph
The clear fluid that travels through the lymphatic system and carries cells that help fight infections and other diseases. Also called lymphatic fluid.
Parasites
An animal or plant that gets nutrients by living on or in an organism of another species. A complete parasite gets all of its nutrients from the host organism, but a semi-parasite gets only some of its nutrients from the host.

More about Appendicitis

Photo of a young adult

Other terms to know: See all 6
Abdomen, Appendectomy, Gastrointestinal Tract (GI Tract)

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