Acute Appendicitis: Introduction
Acute appendicitis is a rapidly progressing inflammation of a small part of the large intestine called the appendix. Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency that generally requires prompt removal of the appendix to prevent life-threatening complications, such as ruptured appendix and peritonitis.
In contrast, chronic appendicitis develops slowly, has milder symptoms, and can often be treated with antibiotics. Chronic appendicitis is far less common than acute appendicitis.
The appendix is a pouch-like structure located in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen near the area where the small intestine links into the large intestine. The exact function of the appendix is not known, although it might be useful in protecting beneficial bacteria of the colon.
Acute appendicitis can occur when a piece of food, stool or object becomes trapped in the appendix. Acute appendicitis can also happen after a gastrointestinal infection. A tumor may also cause acute appendicitis in rare cases. Sometimes the cause of acute appendicitis isn't known.
Any of these conditions result in the abnormal growth of bacteria, swelling and inflammation of the appendix. The appendix then fills with pus, resulting in the typical symptoms of acute appendicitis. Symptoms of acute appendicitis include abdominal pain in the right lower area of the abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. However, not all people with acute appendicitis will experience typical symptoms. Acute appendicitis can also lead to serious complications, especially if left untreated. For more details on symptoms and complications, refer to symptoms of acute appendicitis.
Acute appendicitis is a very common condition and a frequent cause of emergency surgery. Acute appendicitis can occur in any age group or population. However, it most often occurs in teens and young adults. It is rare in children under two years of age.
Making a diagnosis of acute appendicitis begins with taking a thorough medical history, including symptoms, and completing a physical examination. Examination of the abdomen frequently reveals severe pain and tenderness in the right lower area of the abdomen. This area is where the appendix is located and is called McBurney's point.
Diagnostic testing includes a blood test called a complete blood count with differential (CBC). A CBC can determine if there is a rise in the number of certain types of white blood cells, which indicates that an inflammatory and/or infectious process, such as acute appendicitis, is occurring in the body.
More specific diagnostic imaging tests may include an abdominal ultrasound and/or abdominal CT scan, which may reveal the inflamed appendix. These imaging tests are not always conclusive, and in some cases, a surgery called a diagnostic laparoscopy may be needed to look inside the abdomen and make the diagnosis. Other tests, such as urinalysis, are also done to rule out other common diseases and conditions that have similar symptoms, such as a kidney stone.
It is possible that a diagnosis of acute appendicitis can be missed or delayed because symptoms can vary amongst individuals. In addition, some symptoms of acute appendicitis are also common to other conditions, such as gastroenteritis or pelvic inflammatory disease. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of acute appendicitis.
Acute appendicitis is treated by the surgical removal of the appendix. If the appendix has ruptured, more intensive treatment and longer hospitalization is necessary. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of acute appendicitis. ...more »
The main symptom of acute appendicitis is abdominal pain or abdominal sensitivity.
However, abdominal pain occurs with many conditions
and only an estimated 5% of cases of abdominal pain are actually appendicitis.
Although uncommon, appendicitis is very serious, and difficulty in diagnosing
appendicitis in the emergency department
makes appendicitis the 3rd leading cause of malpractice lawsuits.
Misdiagnosis of appendicitis
is particularly common in children and infants with abdominal pain
with estimates of initial misdiagnosis rates
from 28% to 57% for under age 2-12
and almost 100% misdiagnosis for appendicitis in infants. ...more »
Acute Appendicitis: Symptoms
The symptoms of acute appendicitis can vary between individuals. The well-known classic symptoms of acute appendicitis include abdominal pain in the right lower area of the abdomen that gets progressively sharp and more intense. People with acute appendicitis often have tenderness in the right lower area of the abdomen when it is pressed. This area is where the appendix is ...more symptoms »
Acute Appendicitis: Treatments
If acute appendicitis is diagnosed and treated promptly before the appendix ruptures, the outcome is generally very good. The treatment includes pain medications, intravenous antibiotics, and a surgical procedure called an appendectomy in which the appendix is completely removed. People in good health generally recover quickly without complications after an appendectomy that is performed ...more treatments »
Acute Appendicitis: Misdiagnosis
A diagnosis of acute appendicitis can be delayed or missed because symptoms do not always include the classic symptom of right lower abdominal pain. Symptoms of acute appendicitis are also typical of many other diseases, disorders and conditions. These include chronic appendicitis, gastroenteritis, kidney stone, constipation, pelvic inflammatory ...more misdiagnosis »
Symptoms of Acute Appendicitis
See full list of 18
symptoms of Acute Appendicitis
Treatments for Acute Appendicitis
Read more about treatments for Acute Appendicitis
Home Diagnostic Testing
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Wrongly Diagnosed with Acute Appendicitis?
Acute Appendicitis: Related Patient Stories
Acute Appendicitis: Deaths
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Alternative Treatments for Acute Appendicitis
Alternative treatments or home remedies that have been listed in various sources as possibly beneficial for Acute Appendicitis may include:
- High-fiber, low-fat diet
- Bryonia homeopathic remedy
- Lachesis homeopathic remedy
- Rhus tox homeopathic remedy
- more treatments »
Diagnostic Tests for Acute Appendicitis
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Acute Appendicitis: Complications
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Causes of Acute Appendicitis
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Disease Topics Related To Acute Appendicitis
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Acute Appendicitis: Undiagnosed Conditions
Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:
Misdiagnosis and Acute Appendicitis
Mild worm infections undiagnosed in children: Human worm infestations, esp. threadworm, can be overlooked in some cases,
because it may cause only mild or even absent symptoms.
Although the...read more »
Undiagnosed acute appendicitis deadly in children: It is a sad reality that a child with acute appendicitis
has a high likelihood of misdiagnosis.
This misdiagnosis is a well-known...read more »
Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms
of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed.
The best known, irritable bowel syndrome, is...read more »
Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea
is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called intestinal imbalance.
The digestive...read more »
Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely
to cause some level of diarrhea in patients.
The reason is that antibiotics kill off not only "bad" bacteria,
but can also kill the "good"...read more »
Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down
with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning).
In fact, it's more likely to be an infectious...read more »
Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the
more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can...read more »
Blood pressure cuffs misdiagnose hypertension in children: One known misdiagnosis issue
with hyperension, arises in relation to the simple equipment used to test blood pressure.
The "cuff" around the arm to measure blood pressure can simply...read more »
Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive
conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see symptoms of
celiac disease)...read more »
Children with migraine often misdiagnosed: A migraine often fails to be
correctly diagnosed in pediatric patients.
These patients are not the typical migraine sufferers, but migraines can also occur in children.
See ...read more »
Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent
difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases.
Some of the better known possibilities are peptic ulcer...read more »
Read more about Misdiagnosis and Acute Appendicitis
Acute Appendicitis: Research Doctors & Specialists
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Hospitals & Clinics: Acute Appendicitis
Research quality ratings and patient safety measures
for medical facilities in specialties related to Acute Appendicitis:
Hospital & Clinic quality ratings »
Choosing the Best Hospital:
More general information, not necessarily in relation to Acute Appendicitis,
on hospital performance and surgical care quality:
Acute Appendicitis: Rare Types
Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:
Evidence Based Medicine Research for Acute Appendicitis
Medical research articles related to Acute Appendicitis include:
Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database
Acute Appendicitis: Animations
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Prognosis for Acute Appendicitis
More about prognosis of Acute Appendicitis
Research about Acute Appendicitis
Visit our research pages for current research about Acute Appendicitis treatments.
Clinical Trials for Acute Appendicitis
The US based website ClinicalTrials.gov lists information on both federally
and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.
Some of the clinical trials listed on ClinicalTrials.gov for Acute Appendicitis include:
See full list of 9
Clinical Trials for Acute Appendicitis
Prevention of Acute Appendicitis
Prevention information for Acute Appendicitis has been compiled from various data sources
and may be inaccurate or incomplete.
None of these methods guarantee prevention of Acute Appendicitis.
Read more about prevention of Acute Appendicitis
Statistics for Acute Appendicitis
Acute Appendicitis: Broader Related Topics
Types of Acute Appendicitis
Acute Appendicitis Message Boards
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Article Excerpts about Acute Appendicitis
Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix, a
small portion of the large intestine that hangs down from the lower right
side. Although the appendix does not seem to serve any purpose, it can
still become diseased. If untreated, an inflamed appendix can burst,
causing infection and even death. About 1 in 500 people has appendicitis
Appendicitis may occur after a viral infection in the digestive tract
or when the tube connecting the large intestine and appendix is blocked by
The inflammation can cause infection, a blood clot, or
rupture of the appendix. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is
considered an emergency.
Anyone with symptoms needs to see a doctor
(Source: excerpt from Appendicitis: NIDDK)
Definitions of Acute Appendicitis:
Acute inflammation of the APPENDIX. Acute appendicitis is classified as simple, gangrenous, or perforated.
- (Source - Diseases Database)
Inflammation of the vermiform appendix
- (Source - WordNet 2.1)
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