A burst appendix is a terrifying prospect. The excruciating pain is depicted in plenty of TV shows, and it’s something everyone would like to avoid if possible. So what causes it?
Appendicitis is the result of your appendix becoming blocked. Its telltale symptom is pain in the lower-right section of the abdomen, but you may experience other symptoms. Diagnosis requires a physical exam and other tests if your doctor feels it’s necessary. Appendicitis requires surgery to remove the appendix and prevent further complications.
What Causes Appendicitis?
A blocked appendix can occur for a number of reasons, including infections in your digestive tract due to bacteria, a virus, or parasites. It could also be due to blockage in the tube that connects your appendix to your large intestine. Appendicitis may also be the result of tumors.
The blockage of your appendix is enough to warrant a visit to your doctor. However, the possible complications involved with appendicitis are a much bigger concern. Symptoms become worse as the swelling and aching become more severe. Blood flow to the appendix eventually stops, causing it to stop functioning. This can cause the walls to develop tears, holes, or even burst.
At this point, the weakening walls of the appendix allow mucus and stool to escape into the abdominal cavity. This can lead to a serious infection known as peritonitis, which is when the inner lining of the abdomen becomes inflamed. Without treatment, you run the risk of developing a blood infection, organ failure, or even death.
Symptoms of Appendicitis
The symptoms of appendicitis can vary, but one of the main signs is sudden pain in your abdomen. This pain is primarily located in the lower-right side of your abdomen, but keep in mind that it may not always begin there. Instead, it may start around your belly button and gradually move to your lower-right abdomen.
Pain from appendicitis can become more severe while performing certain movements. For instance, many patients describe the pain as becoming worse while walking, making sudden movements, or while coughing. Even breathing can become painful if you have appendicitis.
The pain will become worse as your appendix develops more tears and holes in its walls.
You may also experience:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever or chills
- Loss of appetite
These are all serious signs that something is wrong, even if your appendix hasn’t ruptured. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms. They’ll be able to get you the treatment that you need.
You’ll need to see your doctor for a diagnosis of appendicitis. Some of the condition’s symptoms are similar to other medical problems, so they will want to run a series of tests to determine if your appendix has ruptured and that you receive the correct treatment.
While medical technology has come a long way, a physical exam is still the most effective way to diagnose appendicitis. This requires an extensive physical exam of your abdomen in order to rule out any other causes of your symptoms.
The initial physical exam includes:
- A visual inspection
- Listening with a stethoscope
- Feeling with fingers
- Tapping with fingers
Doctors also have to consider that everyone’s appendix isn’t located in the exact same place. The appendix can actually move during pregnancy or for other reasons, so it’s important to run a series of physical tests to make sure it’s not “hidden” somewhere else. To account for this, your doctor may have you do a series of stretches to test for appendicitis.
Your doctor may run other tests if they feel it’s necessary. This may include blood tests to check for a high white blood cell count or urine tests for a urinary tract infection. Sometimes they may want a better idea of what’s happening inside the body. In this case, they may administer an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or an MRI if the patient is pregnant.
Treating Appendicitis in Evansville, Indiana
An inflamed or ruptured appendix will require an appendectomy, which is a type of abdominal surgery. Appendicitis is always considered an emergency and our team here at Evansville Surgical Associates work quickly to prevent complications or keep them from getting worse.
Most appendectomies are treated using minimally invasive surgery (MIS), also known as laparoscopic surgery. Unlike “open surgery” which uses a single large incision, MIS uses around three to six smaller incisions. This allows our surgeons to insert the tools they need as well as a special camera to get a better view of the abdominal cavity without making a larger incision.
MIS is preferred due to how it benefits patients. Thanks to the use of smaller incisions, patients usually experience:
- Less pain after surgery
- Smaller scars
- Lower risk of infection
- Shorter time in the hospital
- Reduced risk of skin infection
- Lower chances of bleeding during surgery
There are circumstances when open surgery may be necessary for an appendectomy. This is usually when your appendix has ruptured, allowing for the infection to spread to your other organs. It’s also a better option if you’ve had previous abdominal surgeries.
Appendicitis is the result of the appendix becoming blocked. Symptoms can vary, but a telltale sign is pain in the lower-right portion of the abdomen. Your doctor will perform a physical exam to verify that your appendix is the source of your pain. You’ll require surgery for treatment with minimally-invasive surgery being preferred but open surgery sometimes being necessary.
Are you experiencing symptoms of appendicitis? Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231 to schedule your appointment!
Evansville Surgical Associates has been providing comprehensive and compassionate surgical care for over 50 years. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231. We are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm if you would like to schedule an appointment.