Appendicitis FAQs

Appendicitis FAQs

What are the most common risk factors and potential complications associated with appendicitis?

Appendicitis can get serious very quickly. There are two severe complications which are serious red flags for any medical professional:

  • Appendix rupture: Top of the list of concerns is the bursting of an appendix and the associated possible peritonitis that may result, as this fast becomes a life-threatening condition. Immediate surgical intervention is necessary to remove the appendix and clear the abdominal cavity of infectious fluid material.
  • An abscess: Along with a burst appendix, inflammation can also develop a pocket of infected pus (an abscess). It’s as important for this to be drained as it is to remove a burst appendix. A tube will be inserted into the skin, through the abdominal wall and can be left in place for up to two weeks post-op. Extra infection precautions will be taken with a prescription of antibiotics.

Can back pain be a sign of appendicitis?

Yes. It is possible that you can experience pain in the sides of your back, although the condition is primarily associated with pain in the abdominal area (stomach). If you note back pain that doesn’t subside within 4 hours, it is alerting you to something wrong (not necessarily just possible appendicitis) and you should consult your doctor for a check.

If indeed, the pain is related to appendicitis, swift treatment action may be necessary and you won’t want to take a chance by waiting it out.

Do teenagers experience different symptoms of appendicitis than adults or small children?

Signs and symptoms experienced by a teenager are typically the same as for an adult. As with children, they may begin a little differently. For children and teenagers, the first indication is likely to be a dull stomach ache near the bellybutton (navel). The discomfort or pain then progresses to the lower right side and intensifies as the infection inside worsens.

Young children (toddlers) under the age of 2 can even experience appendicitis. A parent will note a swollen or bloated tummy as an initial sign, often followed by vomiting. Fairly quickly, other common symptoms will develop in all cases including children and teens. A fever, nausea and a loss of appetite are among the flags in children and teens to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Is it possible to prevent appendicitis?

No, not really. A healthy diet, rich in fibre (with plenty fruits and vegetables) appears to bring about less occurrences of appendicitis (appendix bursts). Increased fibre helps keep your digestive system in good health and your bowel movements regular.

Constipation and subsequent stool build-up often leads to an obstruction, and ultimately resulting in infection that causes appendicitis.

If you have a known condition that typically causes infection or inflammation in the bowels as a side complication, your doctor will be aware of the potential dangers of appendicitis. Together with your doctor, an effective plan can be developed to do all you can to prevent infection or obstructions.

What happens if I experience appendicitis during pregnancy?

Unfortunately, it can happen, and isn’t too uncommon. It usually tends to happen around the second or third trimester of a woman’s pregnancy. Diagnosis may be difficult as it is all too easy for a woman to associate her discomfort with her pregnancy and not seek medical treatment initially.

As with any other case, a delayed diagnosis places a person at increased risk of complications. For a pregnant woman, this includes foetal loss due to the exposure to infectious fluids during rupture. Due to the natural strain pregnancy places on the body, a woman is at higher risk of rupture fairly quickly.

The diagnosis and treatment procedures are much the same as for any other patient. Recovery, however, will require additional care. A pregnant woman will be closely monitored by their surgeon, primary physician (GP) and gynaecologist or obstetrician.

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