The appendix is a thin, worm-shaped pouch that projects out from the first section of the large intestine. In some animals, the appendix plays an important role in the digestive process. In humans, the appendix is small (just under 4 inches long) and seems to have no function at all.
In most cases of appendicitis, no cause is detected. But for reasons yet unknown, the appendix can become obstructed with a particle of undigested food, bowel material or other matter. The appendix will then become swollen, inflamed and filled with pus. If this is left unattended, the appendix will eventually burst, flooding the normally sterile abdominal cavity. Infection can then spread to surrounding organs, leading to blood poisoning, shock or death.
IF YOU SUSPECT APPENDICITIS…
- don’t give your child laxatives-they can stimulate the intestine and cause the appendix to rupture sooner.
- don’t give pain medication to your child-the location and severity of the pain are important clues to a proper diagnosis.
- don’t apply heat to the abdomen.
- take your child to the doctor immediately.
- have your child stand on tip-toes and bounce down on his heels. If this jarring causes pain in the lower right abdomen, call the doctor.
HOW APPENDICITIS IS TREATED
Your doctor will first ask you about the development of the symptoms. After an examination of the abdomen, the doctor may examine the rectum for tenderness in the area around the appendix. Also a blood test may be administered to measure the white blood cell count. If the doctor suspects an appendicitis, the diagnosis may be confirmed with ultrasound scanning or CT scanning. An appendectomy, surgical removal of the appendix, is the treatment of choice. A child with a burst appendix, if treated promptly, can have a full recovery.
RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS
- sudden pain that usually begins in the upper abdomen and then moves down to the lower right part of the abdomen with increasing pain
- nausea with or without vomiting
- loss of appetite
- constipation or diarrhea
- low-grade fever
- tenderness or rigidity In the abdominal area
- frequent urination