You’ve heard the horror stories of people who were in terrible abdominal pain, then they waited too long and had their appendix burst. You also have some pain in the middle of your abdomen and you don’t want to make the same mistake. But how do you know that you are having appendicitis? What if it’s just a bad stomach ache or something you ate that’s wiping you out? What if you go to the ER and it turns out to be nothing? At Advance ER, we have the answers to your questions.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is the inflammation of a small organ in your body located on the right side. It is located where the small intestine and the large intestine are joined. Doctors have not yet discovered the purpose of the appendix, and having it removed doesn’t seem to adversely affect a person’s digestive system.
Inflammation of the appendix can sometimes be caused by a blockage that causes the lining of the organ to become infected. This infection can grow and fill the appendix and, if left untreated, can rupture the organ.
Who is susceptible to appendicitis?
It is unknown why some people’s appendix becomes inflamed. However, once it becomes inflamed, the pain will progress and the patient will require medical intervention. “Appendicitis is no respecter of persons,” said Advance ER physician Dr. Ron Bryce. “It doesn’t matter if you are a marathon runner, a body builder, a weekend warrior or an inactive person. When your appendix becomes inflamed, it has to be immediately treated by a doctor.”
Statistically speaking, 5% of the population develops appendicitis during their lifetimes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, making it one of the most common causes for surgery. The median age for appendicitis is 10-30 years old, but it can also occur at any age.
- Pain in the center of the abdomen, often shifting to the right side as time passes
- Pain in the right side of the abdomen
- Pain that increases when walking or moving
- Pain like stomach cramps
- Fever – low grade, under 100°F
- Swollen abdomen or bloating
- No appetite
In the emergency room, your physician will do a physical examination to determine the location of the pain. You will need to answer several questions about when the pain started, where you first felt it and if it has changed. If you are pregnant, additional exams may be required to determine if it is appendicitis.
Some exams your physician may require could include a urine analysis to check for a possible urinary tract infection; a blood test to check for a high white blood cell count, which would indicate infection; or an X-ray or ultrasound to pinpoint the affected area.
Your physician may keep you for observation as your symptoms progress. Once appendicitis has been established, your surgeon will need to remove it through a minimally-invasive surgery. Surgical treatment is the only option for an infected appendix.
“Once we’ve diagnosed appendicitis, we will explain the surgical options to you. You can be treated right at Advance ER and your spouse, family or friend can relax and enjoy our concierge hospitality including a free refreshment bar. We think of everything for your comfort and peace of mind,” said Dr. Bryce.
You may need to spend a day in the hospital following your surgery. Recovery includes a gradual introduction of liquids and solid foods. You will need to rest for several days and be careful not to overexert yourself or lift anything heavy. If you had a minimally-invasive procedure, you may only need to be careful for a week. But if your appendix ruptured and required open surgery, you will need to go slowly for two weeks or more.
Begin moving slowly and carefully increase your level of activity. Taking short walks may be a good way to start becoming more active as you recover.
If you are in pain, call your physician. If your prescribed pain relievers are not sufficient, call your physician or go to the ER for a follow-up exam. Otherwise, plan on having at least one follow-up exam (or more if you had open surgery). You will want to schedule your exam soon after your surgery.
Discuss with your physician when you will be able to return to school or work. Many people are able to return within a few days, if the surgery was minimally-invasive.
Complications of appendicitis:
If the appendix is filled with infection, it could rupture. This can spread pus, or infection, throughout the abdominal cavity and can lead to sepsis. This condition is called “peritonitis” and may require open surgery to clean out the abdominal cavity. You may be prescribed an antibiotic.
If an abscess, or a pocket of infection, develops, your surgeon may need to add a drainage tube to the site for a few days to completely drain it. You may be prescribed an antibiotic to fight the infection.
Conditions that mimic appendicitis:
There are many different abdominal conditions that can look like appendicitis. Your physician will be checking you to eliminate other medical conditions that can be mistaken for appendicitis such as:
- Urinary tract infection
- Bacterial infection
- Kidney stones
- Gallbladder inflammation
- Ovarian cyst
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Twisted ovary or fallopian tube
- Prostate gland inflammation
- Epididymitis inflammation
- Crohn’s disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Periodic fever syndrome
- Some cancers
When should I go to the doctor?
Any time you experience persistent or severe abdominal pain, you should get immediate medical attention.
“At Advance ER, we can diagnose your condition and take fast action to treat you, so don’t hesitate to come in right away,” said Dr. Bryce. “We’d much rather look at you and find nothing serious instead of having you wait too long and find your appendix has ruptured.”
Where should I go to get medical help?
For fast, No Wait medical care, Advance ER is open 24 hours every day of the year. We are equipped with the labs and imaging equipment needed to diagnose and to treat your abdominal pain. You’ll be seen by a board-certified physician, rather than an assistant, and will benefit from your physician’s many years of experience in emergency medicine.