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Abdominal Pain or Appendicitis?

By Dr. Douglas

Abdominal pain may be cause for concern if the pain is near the navel or in the lower abdomen and becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen.  Other symptoms to watch for include; loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, abdominal swelling or fever. These symptoms are common in appendicitis and require immediate medical attention. 

What is Appendicitis?

Appendicitis is an acute condition that causes inflammation of the appendix, the finger-shaped tube of tissue that extends from the large intestine or colon. This is often the result of a bacterial infection that causes the appendix to become inflamed and sore.  In some cases the inflamed appendix may be the result of a blockage from stool, a foreign body, cancer or inflammation in response to infection in the body. If appendicitis is suspected, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.  Prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical in preventing the appendix from rupturing. Appendicitis almost always requires a surgical procedure to remove the infected appendix and is considered a medical emergency. Without swift treatment, an infected appendix can rupture, releasing the infection into the abdominal cavity which can be fatal without medical attention. Diagnostic tests are available to determine if abdominal pain is due to appendicitis, so if symptoms arise contact your primary care physician or seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment for Appendicitis: Appendectomy

Once an appendicitis diagnosis is confirmed and the physician has reviewed all symptoms and test results, they will decide whether the infected appendix needs to be removed. An appendectomy is the standard treatment for most cases. An appendectomy is the surgical removal of an infected appendix. The goal of an appendectomy is to remove the infected appendix before it ruptures. 

Preparing for an Appendectomy

Because appendicitis requires prompt attention and treatment, the majority of appendectomy operations are emergency surgeries. Patients must carefully follow the instructions given by their surgeon. Prior to the appendectomy, the surgeon will ask about your health history, conduct a preoperative exam, and explain the procedure. It is important to provide a list of any medications, vitamins and supplements you may be taking as well as any health conditions the surgeon should be aware of before beginning the procedure. This gives the provider a more complete picture of your overall health and whether you are at an increased risk for complications during the procedure. Patients are instructed not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours before the operation, may be given medication to manage nausea and vomiting symptoms and are started on an antibiotic IV before surgery.

The Procedure

In most cases, appendectomies are performed in an operating room at a hospital. Prior to the surgery, hair is often removed from the treatment area and an antiseptic solution is applied to the skin to prevent infection. Fluids and anesthesia will be administered through an IV in the arm or hand. During the surgery, an anesthesiologist will monitor vitals including heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. 

The appendix can be removed either by an open method or laparoscopically. An open appendectomy is performed by making a two to three inch incision in the lower right abdomen to remove the infected appendix. 

If the procedure is done laparoscopically, rather than a single, larger incision, several small incisions are made in the abdomen. The surgeon utilizes a long, thin tube with an attached video camera and other surgical tools to complete the procedure. 

Once the appendix is removed, the incision(s) will be closed and the appendix will be sent to a lab to be tested.

Recovering from an Appendectomy

Both surgical techniques are safe and effective, offering a low risk of complications.  There are no known health problems associated with living without an appendix. Laparoscopic surgery typically has reduced recovery time and a decreased risk of infection. If the appendix does burst and the infection has spread, an open appendectomy may be necessary. Because of the urgent and serious nature of any appendectomy procedure, a hospital stay is often required following the procedure to monitor the patient’s vitals during the initial recovery.  Typically you will be able to return home within one to two days after the surgery. Recovery time may be slower and more complicated if the appendix bursts or an abscess has formed. It is important to keep the area around the incision(s) clean and dry. Once home, it typically takes between four to six weeks to achieve full recovery, during which time activity level should be reduced. The surgeon will re-evaluate the area during a postoperative appointment to ensure it is healing properly.

 

If you develop symptoms that indicate possible appendicitis, it is important to seek immediate medical care. DuPage Medical Group’s Surgeons are on staff at the majority of the hospitals in the Chicagoland suburbs and perform procedures out of our conveniently located surgical center in Lombard. To find a DMG surgeon visit https://www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/surgery/.


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