I can’t tell you how often we have patients show up to our emergency department with extreme lower/right quadrant abdominal pain, and an hour later they are getting their appendix out. This weekend has proven no exception.
According to WebMD 2017, one in 20 people will get appendicitis. Although it can strike at any age, appendicitis is rare under age 2 and most common between ages 10 and 30. Every year, some 300,000 Americans end up having their appendixes removed. Appendectomies are one the most common emergent surgeries performed and for the most part they are very safe.
Appendicitis is caused by a partial or complete blockage in the lining of the appendix. This could be due to an accumulation of stool, enlarged lymphoid follicles, worms, trauma, or tumors. When there’s an obstruction in your appendix, bacteria can multiply inside the organ. The bacteria multiply rapidly, causing the appendix to become inflamed, swollen and filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the appendix can rupture.
A ruptured appendix can be life threatening because it can spread infection all throughout your peritoneal cavity. It can also develop into an abscess, which can further complicate things.
Appendicitis can happen suddenly and out of nowhere. The main symptoms associated with appendicitis include intense/severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal tenderness (often starting in the umbilical region then moving over to the lower right quadrant).
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately because it’s critically important to catch it before the appendix ruptures. If and when it does indeed rupture, the situation becomes far more worrisome and problematic.
But what the heck does the appendix even do? Actually, we don’t really know. Some seem to think that it plays a role in immunity while others suggest it helps produce and protect probiotic colonies in the digestive system.
One thing we do know for sure is that we most certainly can live without it. You should know that there is no convincing evidence or research confirming long-term complications associated with having your appendix removed.
Our on call surgical team can almost always look forward to the supervisor phone call informing them that they need to come in to remove someone’s appendix. Hopefully, that next call won’t be you, but if it is, know that here at WVMC we will do our absolute best to take care of you and your appendix.