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Appendicitis – a small trigger with a devastating effect. If detected in time, treatment is nowadays a routine procedure. However, if it progresses untreated, it can develop destructive and sometimes life-threatening consequences.
Many people live without an appendix after an inflammation. This does not affect the organism. The following tips will help you to read the early signs of appendicitis and minimize risks.
What Is The Appendix?
What is commonly referred to as the appendix is usually just the vermiform appendix. It is located on the right side of the lower abdomen above the groin. You can imagine it as a small dead-end in our intestinal labyrinth.
The appendix is non-functional and is about the size of a little finger.
What Is Appendicitis?
When the appendix or its appendix becomes inflamed, it is referred to in medicine as appendicitis. This can have different manifestations. In simple inflammation, the appendix is reddened and swollen. However, there is no pus formation and the inflammation can also subside spontaneously.
Chronic appendicitis, on the other hand, occurs repeatedly over a period of years, with symptoms always subsiding in between. The destructive form of appendicitis is characterized by the formation of pus, the tissue is attacked and a rupture of the intestine may occur.
A rupture of the intestine is extremely dangerous, as bacteria penetrate into the abdominal cavity, where they cause inflammatory reactions and can lead to life-threatening peritonitis, which can only be treated with great effort and represents a considerable burden for the body.
Therefore, at the first signs of the abdominal pain or appendicitis pain described below, it is important to consult a doctor, who will get a differentiated picture of the situation and expertly assess what to do.
Harmless Abdominal Pain Or Is There More To It?
Assigning the symptoms (e.g. abdominal pain) and recognizing appendicitis – easier said than done. The localization of the pain and also the appendix itself can vary – depending on the anatomical conditions.
Also during pregnancy the appendix can shift its position if necessary. Most patients complain of abdominal pain in the right lower abdominal region, while some feel the pain throughout the abdominal cavity. The appendicitis pain is more pronounced when walking so that patients often try to relieve it by tightening their right leg.
In the acute phase, fever, loss of appetite, night sweats, increased pulse, a coated tongue, and nausea and vomiting may also occur in addition to the abdominal pain. Due to the displaced position of the appendix in pregnant women, the development of pain may develop a completely atypical localization (e.g., back), making it difficult to detect.
Seniors are less likely to develop severe nausea or vomiting – fever is also not one of the typically occurring detection features here. The opposite is seen in children. In most cases, they develop the most severe and pronounced symptoms.
Danger Recognized – What To Do Now?
If it was not a harmless abdominal pain after all and appendicitis is definitely diagnosed, the surgical treatment approach is mostly followed today. Although in some cases it is possible to treat the condition conservatively, this also involves risks, so that surgery is often the method of choice.
Surgery can be minimally invasive or by laparotomy (large abdominal incision). The procedure usually takes about 20 minutes and involves removing the inflamed appendix and then suturing the wound.
Minimally Invasive Procedure Or Open Abdominal Incision?
In the minimally invasive method (also called keyhole method), the abdominal cavity is filled with carbon dioxide to allow a better view. The camera, light source and instruments are inserted through three small incisions.
This approach is particularly suitable for non-advanced stages of appendicitis and has the advantage of minimal scarring and a reduced risk of infection. However, the operative time is slightly longer and any bleeding that may occur during surgery is less easily stopped.
During laparotomy, an incision approximately 5 cm long is made through which the surgeon gains access to the lower abdomen. This results in a visible scar, which needs to be taken care of in order to remain free of infection. Depending on the situation, the attending physician will give you his recommendation.
With a little background knowledge, you can then discuss which method is best for you.
As a rule, the appendectomy is followed by a hospital stay of a few days. During this time, bowel activity is monitored and, if necessary, fluids are added by infusion. If the surgeon has placed a drain to drain wound fluid and pus from the wound, it will be pulled out after a few days.
If self-dissolving sutures were not used to close the wound, removal is usually done about a week after surgery. This is usually done on an outpatient basis. Patients are not allowed to eat until one day after the operation but are usually allowed to drink on the evening of the day of the operation.
During the healing phase, you will most likely experience abdominal pain and may find walking difficult. You will then be on sick leave (about 2 to 3 weeks) to rest after the surgery.
Risks And Complications Of Surgery
Surgical procedures all carry a risk of bleeding and infection. Since appendectomy is a routine operation, the risk is relatively low. One possible complication is the development of an abdominal wall or abdominal cavity abscess, which occurs after pus accumulates in the abdominal cavity.
This would then need to be drained surgically. Possible signs of this can be fever as well as pain in the bowel area, which occurs about a week post-op. In rare cases, scarring in the abdomen may cause the abdominal organs to stick together and impair their function.
Although this complication does not occur frequently, it can have serious consequences. It manifests about 3 weeks after the original appendectomy and also requires invasive therapy.
Can I Prevent Appendicitis?
The development of appendicitis can have various causes:
- Kinking due to an unfavorable position in the body.
- Fecal stones.
- Foreign bodies (e.g. seeds of fruits).
- Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases.
- Bacterial intestinal infections.
Even a mindful lifestyle cannot completely eliminate the risk of appendicitis. However, you can favor your prognosis and significantly reduce the likelihood of appendicitis by following some behavioral rules.
By the way, good intestinal health is beneficial to overall physical well-being. It is also important for a balanced and robust immune system. Diseases that can be caused by a dysfunctional immune system or metabolic dysfunction include thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism/ hypothyroidism, Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or diabetes in its various forms.
So pay careful attention to your diet, strengthen your intestinal flora – especially after taking antibiotics or after acute intestinal diseases.
Avoid excessive swallowing of fruit pits (cherry pits, melon seeds or similar). Take regular preventive care and listen to the signs of your body. It usually sends warning signals in the run-up to a serious illness, but unfortunately, these are all too often overlooked because we are under pressure to perform or are not sufficiently sensitized.
Should you ever find yourself in the situation of developing appendicitis and notice the typical abdominal pain, do not hesitate and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The earlier the diagnosis, the easier the treatment and the quicker and less complicated the recovery will be. With the possibilities of today’s medicine, appendicitis is usually over quickly.