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Appendicitis: causes, symptoms and treatments

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Appendicitis: causes, symptoms and treatments
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Appendicitis is a severe inflammation of your appendix which affects predominantly people under the age of 20.  Acute appendicitis makes up about 30% of digestive surgery.  What are the symptoms of this inflammation? How is appendicitis treated?  

The appendix is a segment of the intestine which measure about 10 centimetres long and is found near the first part of the large intestine.  Inflammation of your appendix can be caused for a number of reasons from fecal residues, a foreign body or an exterior compression.
The appendix is benign but it can lead to complications if it is not treated at the first sign of symptoms.  It can develop into an appendiceal abscess or peritonitis (an unbearable pain in the stomach).  In this situation, a surgical operation needs to be carried out immediately.

What are the symptoms of appendicitis?

If any of the following symptoms develop you should quickly contact a doctor or A&E.  An emergency operation might be needed if it is appendicitis as the inflammation could lead to complications.  Here are the main symptoms:

  • An abdominal pain below and to the right of your belly button or under the liver
  • An intense pain like a sprain or cramp than gets increasingly more painful.
  • High temperature (between 37.5°C and 38.5°C)
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Constipation 
  • For children under the age of 3: insomnia, agitation; diarrhea, loss of appetite, high fever. 

If you are unsure, get in touch with you doctor or go to A&E only when the pain is unbearable.  An ultrasound of the abdomen or a CT scan is generally recommended. If the examination confirms an appendicitis diagnosis, surgery will be required.

What happens during an appendicitis operation?

An appendicitis operation where the infected appendix is surgically removed is called an appendectomy.  The patient must not have eaten anything before they are operated on as it allows them to be kept hydrated and for them to be injected with antibiotics and painkillers.  The operation can be carried out once the patient has been anesthetized  In 95% of cases a colonoscopy technique is used.  This technique allows the surgeon to reach the appendix by way of little incisions of 1 to 3 centimetres where a mini camera and surgical instruments are able to be inserted inside.

The patient who is under general anesthetic doesn’t feel pain.  In very rare cases, 5%, the surgeon must make an opening around the abdomen. Depending on if there aren’t any complications, the patient can leave hospital as early as the next day.  However you should wait 3 weeks after the operation before doing any sport.

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