Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix, a small worm-like pouch attached to the large bowel. It can happen at any age but most cases are between 8 and 25 years of age. For young people, appendicitis is probably the most common cause of stomach pain requiring emergency surgery.

What causes Appendicitis?

In most cases, the specific reason for the inflammation is not known but it is due to blocking of the opening connecting the large intestine and appendix. In many cases it is caused by small pieces of hardened stool (faecoliths) that get stuck in the appendix.

What are the symptoms?

The first sign is usually a pain or discomfort in the centre of the abdomen.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Fever that begins after other symptoms

Are there any tests to diagnose Appendicitis?

There is no one test that will diagnose appendicitis with certainty, usually doctors use ultrasound to see whether the appendix looks inflamed. CT scan is helpful if in doubt. Surgery is performed on the basis of the doctor’s examination and results of the tests.

What are the complications of Appendicitis?

The inflammation can cause infection or rupture of the appendix. Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is considered an emergency. Anyone with symptoms needs to see a doctor immediately.

How is appendicitis treated?

  • Surgical removal of the appendix (appendicectomy) is the most common procedure.
  • The appendix is routinely removed by a keyhole operation (laparoscopy).

In uncomplicated cases, a one to two day hospital stay is typical. The person can go home when their temperature is normal and their bowel starts to function again