Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small, vestigial organ in near the base of the large intestine. It is finger like in shape and forms a cul-de-sac that opens into the large intestine on the right side of the abdomen. It is thought that evolutionarily, the appendix was used in the the digestive process. The ultimate proof that the appendix has absolutely no function in humans today is that it can be removed without any known side effects. The wall of the appendix however, contains lymphatic tissue and some scientists believe that the appendix may be involved in the immune system.
History of the Appendicitis
Through history, appendicitis has had many different names including typhlitis and perityphlitis. It was not until the 1890s when it was named appendicitis. Once general anaesthesia was discovered, physicians now had the ability to operate on the abdominal cavity. The majority of physicians initially condemned the use of surgical procedures as treatment, opting to use dietary measures instead. The opposition to surgery continued until 1902 when King George had his appendix removed. From then, appendectomies became the accepted treatment.
How Does Appendicitis Occur
Appendicitis occurs when the cavity of the appendicitis becomes clogged with faeces, obstructed by inflammation, invaded by a foreign body or when the organ kinks. The appendix then becomes infected with causing swelling and obstruction of blood flow to the organ. This can lead to development of gangrene and perforation of the organ.
- High fever
- High neutrophil (type of white blood cell) count
- Referred pain in the abdomen (intensified by coughing or sneezing)
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea/ vomiting
- Diarrhea with mucus
If appendicitis goes untreated for 24 – 72 hours, the inflamed appendix is likely to burst. Once the organ has perforated, it can result in a collection of pus, and infection of the entire abdominal lining (peritonitis). This is the more commons result of perforation.
Another result of appendicitis is blockage of the large intestine. This means that digested food or faeces are not able to descend down the digestive tract and there is a build up of liquid and gas. Drainage through a tube is necessary in this case.
Sepsis is the most deadly effect of untreated appendicitis. Sepsis occurs when pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria from the appendix enters the blood stream and can infect other parts of the body.
Treatment of Appendicitis
Laproscopy is used when removing an inflamed appendix. This surgical procedure involves inserting a fiberoptic tube into the abdomen. The fiberoptic tube has a camera allowing the doctor to investigate the status of the appendix and then perform the surgery without making a big incision. The appendix is then removed with a laproscope. After the removal of an unruptured appendix, a patient is usually sent home after 2 to 3 days of observation. Patients with ruptured appendices generally stay longer, about 4 to 7 days. They are given intravenous antibiotics to fight bacterial infections, especially where peritonitis is present.