A painful swelling of the appendix, a small, thin pouch that connects to the large intestine where faeces is formed. Can be chronic (rumbling) or acute.

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What is an appendicitis?

An appendicitis usually starts as a pain in your abdomen that comes and goes. Within a few hours the pain increases and becomes persistent, travelling to the lower right-hand side of your body. This is where the appendix usually lies. If left untreated, appendicitis may cause your appendix to burst and lead to infection.

Need to know

Symptoms of appendicitis may include:

  • Pain in the middle of your abdomen
  • Feeling nauseous or being sick
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Running a fever (high temperature)

Appendicitis can be difficult to diagnose as the typical symptoms only appear in about half of cases. The location of the appendix can also vary from person to person.

Your consultant will speak to you about your symptoms, examine your abdomen and see if the pain gets worse when they apply pressure to the appendix area. If further tests are required these may include:

  • A blood test, for signs of infection
  • A pregnancy test in females
  • A urine test, to rule out a bladder infection
  • An ultrasound scan, to check for swelling
  • A CT scan

If you have appendicitis your appendix will normally need to be removed as soon as possible. It's unclear why we have an appendix, but removing it doesn't harm your body. This requires a surgical procedure called an appendectomy. There are two ways of performing the surgery:

  • Keyhole surgery. This tends to be the preferred method as the recovery time is quicker. It involves making three of four small incisions in your abdomen. Special instruments and a tube with a small camera on the end are inserted to perform the removal.
  • Open surgery. In some instance open surgery may be required. This involves making a single large cut in the lower right-hand side of your abdomen to remove your appendix.

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.