A Closer Look into Appendicitis

Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix which commonly develops among adolescents and young adults. Although it can occur in any age, its peak incidence is between 20 to 30 years old.

The appendix is a small, 10cm slender tube attached to the colon. This finger-like pouch is located in the lower right area of the abdomen.

The usual cause of appendicitis is either infection, kinking of the appendix, or obstruction in the lumen of the appendix.

Common symptoms of appendicitis include:

• Acute abdominal pain which starts at the mid abdomen, and then shifts to the right lower quadrant.
• Vomiting
• Fever
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea

Appendicitis is a medical emergency that requires immediate care. If symptoms occur, immediately call your nearest health care practitioner or hospital. Once in the hospital, the doctor usually performs a physical examination to the patient. The details to the abdominal pain are the key in diagnosing appendicitis. The doctor will evaluate the pain by touching or applying pressure to certain areas of the abdomen. The common responses that signify appendicitis are:

• Rebound tenderness, in which the doctor applies pressure to the abdomen. When pain is felt after the release of pressure, it indicates rebound tenderness.

• Guarding occurs when the patient guards or protects the area by lying still and drawing the legs to relieve tension of the abdominal muscles.

In diagnosing appendicitis, the doctor usually orders for a white blood count, which is elevated in individuals with appendicitis. Computerized Tomography Scan or CT scan and Ultrasound can also determine appendicitis. Moreover, pain at the McBurney’s point (midway of the umbilicus and right iliac crest) typically confirms the diagnosis.

Once appendicitis is confirmed, the immediate treatment for this condition is by removing the appendix through surgery, which is called appendectomy. Surgery is done within 24 to 48 hours once symptoms occur. Antibiotics are given to the client prior to the surgery. Generally, the surgery is done through a small incision or by laparoscope in removing the appendix.

After surgery, interventions include:

• Diet. Clear liquid diet to soft diet are given until normal bowel function returns.

• Activity. Postoperative client can be encouraged to deep breathing and coughing exercises. Lifting is avoided to allow incision site to heal for about 2 to 4 weeks.

• Medication. Pain relievers are given along with antibiotics after surgery.

Following surgery or laparoscopic procedure, full recovery takes about 4 to 6 weeks. The patient may be discharged from the hospital 48 hours after surgical intervention.

Appendicitis affects 7% to 12% of the population. Because this condition is not preventable, early detection of the condition is very important. Any delay to the diagnosis and treatment accounts a higher mortality and morbidity rate to patients with appendicitis.

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