Last updated
Other namesEpityphlitis [1]
Acute Appendicitis.jpg
An acutely inflamed and enlarged appendix, sliced lengthwise.
Specialty General surgery
SymptomsRight lower abdominal pain, vomiting, decreased appetite [2]
Complications Abdominal inflammation, sepsis [3]
Diagnostic method Based on symptoms, medical imaging, blood tests [4]
Differential diagnosis Mesenteric adenitis, cholecystitis, psoas abscess, abdominal aortic aneurysm [5]
Treatment Surgical removal of the appendix, antibiotics [6] [7]
Frequency11.6 million (2015) [8]
Deaths50,100 (2015) [9]

Appendicitis is inflammation of the appendix. [2] Symptoms commonly include right lower abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and decreased appetite. [2] However, approximately 40% of people do not have these typical symptoms. [2] Severe complications of a ruptured appendix include widespread, painful inflammation of the inner lining of the abdominal wall and sepsis. [3]

Inflammation signs of activation of the immune system

Inflammation is part of the complex biological response of body tissues to harmful stimuli, such as pathogens, damaged cells, or irritants, and is a protective response involving immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The function of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and initiate tissue repair.

Appendix (anatomy) blind-ended tube connected to the cecum, from which it develops embryologically

The appendix is a finger-like, blind-ended tube connected to the cecum, from which it develops in the embryo. The cecum is a pouchlike structure of the colon, located at the junction of the small and the large intestines.

Abdominal pain Stomach aches

Abdominal pain, also known as a stomach ache, is a symptom associated with both non-serious and serious medical issues.


Appendicitis is caused by a blockage of the hollow portion of the appendix. [10] This is most commonly due to a calcified "stone" made of feces. [6] Inflamed lymphoid tissue from a viral infection, parasites, gallstone, or tumors may also cause the blockage. [6] This blockage leads to increased pressures in the appendix, decreased blood flow to the tissues of the appendix, and bacterial growth inside the appendix causing inflammation. [6] [11] The combination of inflammation, reduced blood flow to the appendix and distention of the appendix causes tissue injury and tissue death. [12] If this process is left untreated, the appendix may burst, releasing bacteria into the abdominal cavity, leading to increased complications. [12] [13]

Lumen (anatomy) cavity within an organ

In biology, a lumen is the inside space of a tubular structure, such as an artery or intestine. It comes from Latin lumen, meaning 'an opening'.

The mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), also called mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue, is a diffuse system of small concentrations of lymphoid tissue found in various submucosal membrane sites of the body, such as the gastrointestinal tract, oral passage, nasopharyngeal tract, thyroid, breast, lung, salivary glands, eye, and skin. MALT is populated by lymphocytes such as T cells and B cells, as well as plasma cells and macrophages, each of which is well situated to encounter antigens passing through the mucosal epithelium. In the case of intestinal MALT, M cells are also present, which sample antigen from the lumen and deliver it to the lymphoid tissue.

Gallstone human disease

A gallstone is a stone formed within the gallbladder out of bile components. The term cholelithiasis may refer to the presence of gallstones or to the diseases caused by gallstones. Most people with gallstones never have symptoms. When a gallstone blocks the bile duct, a cramp-like pain in the right upper part of the abdomen, known as biliary colic can result. This happens in 1–4% of those with gallstones each year. Complications of gallstones may include inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis), inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), jaundice, and infection of a bile duct (cholangitis). Symptoms of these complications may include pain of more than five hours duration, fever, yellowish skin, vomiting, dark urine, and pale stools.

The diagnosis of appendicitis is largely based on the person's signs and symptoms. [11] In cases where the diagnosis is unclear, close observation, medical imaging, and laboratory tests can be helpful. [4] The two most common imaging tests used are an ultrasound and computed tomography (CT scan). [4] CT scan has been shown to be more accurate than ultrasound in detecting acute appendicitis. [14] However, ultrasound may be preferred as the first imaging test in children and pregnant women because of the risks associated with radiation exposure from CT scans. [4]

Medical imaging technique and process of creating visual representations of the interior of a body

Medical imaging is the technique and process of creating visual representations of the interior of a body for clinical analysis and medical intervention, as well as visual representation of the function of some organs or tissues (physiology). Medical imaging seeks to reveal internal structures hidden by the skin and bones, as well as to diagnose and treat disease. Medical imaging also establishes a database of normal anatomy and physiology to make it possible to identify abnormalities. Although imaging of removed organs and tissues can be performed for medical reasons, such procedures are usually considered part of pathology instead of medical imaging.

Ultrasound vibrations with frequencies above the human hearing range

Ultrasound is sound waves with frequencies higher than the upper audible limit of human hearing. Ultrasound is not different from "normal" (audible) sound in its physical properties, except that humans cannot hear it. This limit varies from person to person and is approximately 20 kilohertz in healthy young adults. Ultrasound devices operate with frequencies from 20 kHz up to several gigahertz.

The standard treatment for acute appendicitis is surgical removal of the appendix. [6] [11] This may be done by an open incision in the abdomen (laparotomy) or through a few smaller incisions with the help of cameras (laparoscopy). Surgery decreases the risk of side effects or death associated with rupture of the appendix. [3] Antibiotics may be equally effective in certain cases of non-ruptured appendicitis. [7] It is one of the most common and significant causes of severe abdominal pain that comes on quickly. In 2015 about 11.6 million cases of appendicitis occurred which resulted in about 50,100 deaths. [8] [9] In the United States, appendicitis is the most common cause of sudden abdominal pain requiring surgery. [2] Each year in the United States, more than 300,000 people with appendicitis have their appendix surgically removed. [15] Reginald Fitz is credited with being the first person to describe the condition in 1886. [16]

Appendectomy Surgical removal of the vermiform appendix

An appendectomy is a surgical operation in which the vermiform appendix is removed. Appendectomy is normally performed as an urgent or emergency procedure to treat acute appendicitis.

A laparotomy is a surgical procedure involving a large incision through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity. It is also known as a celiotomy.


Laparoscopy invented by George Kelling in 1901, in Germany, is an operation performed in the abdomen or pelvis using small incisions with the aid of a camera. The laparoscope aids diagnosis or therapeutic interventions with a few small cuts in the abdomen.

Video summary (script)

Signs and symptoms

Location of the appendix in the digestive system Stomach colon rectum diagram-en.svg
Location of the appendix in the digestive system

The presentation of acute appendicitis includes abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. As the appendix becomes more swollen and inflamed, it begins to irritate the adjoining abdominal wall. This leads to the localization of the pain to the right lower quadrant. This classic migration of pain may not be seen in children under three years. This pain can be elicited through signs and can be severe. Signs include localized findings in the right iliac fossa. The abdominal wall becomes very sensitive to gentle pressure (palpation). There is severe pain on sudden release of deep pressure in the lower abdomen (rebound tenderness). If the appendix is retrocecal (localized behind the cecum), even deep pressure in the right lower quadrant may fail to elicit tenderness (silent appendix). This is because the cecum, distended with gas, protects the inflamed appendix from pressure. Similarly, if the appendix lies entirely within the pelvis, there is typically complete absence of abdominal rigidity. In such cases, a digital rectal examination elicits tenderness in the rectovesical pouch. Coughing causes point tenderness in this area (McBurney's point), historically called Dunphy's sign.

Iliac fossa

The iliac fossa is a large, smooth, concave surface on the internal surface of the ilium. The fossa is bounded above by the iliac crest, and below by the arcuate line; in front and behind, by the anterior and posterior borders of the ilium.

Palpation process of using ones hands to examine the body, especially while perceiving/diagnosing a disease or illness

Palpation is the process of using one's hands to check the body, especially while perceiving/diagnosing a disease or illness. Usually performed by a health care practitioner, it is the process of feeling an object in or on the body to determine its size, shape, firmness, or location.

Cecum pouch that is considered to be the beginning of the large intestine

The cecum or caecum is an intraperitoneal pouch that is considered to be the beginning of the large intestine. It is typically located on the right side of the body.


Acute appendicitis seems to be the end result of a primary obstruction of the appendix. [17] [10] Once this obstruction occurs, the appendix becomes filled with mucus and swells. This continued production of mucus leads to increased pressures within the lumen and the walls of the appendix. The increased pressure results in thrombosis and occlusion of the small vessels, and stasis of lymphatic flow. At this point spontaneous recovery rarely occurs. As the occlusion of blood vessels progresses, the appendix becomes ischemic and then necrotic. As bacteria begin to leak out through the dying walls, pus forms within and around the appendix (suppuration). The end result is appendiceal rupture (a 'burst appendix') causing peritonitis, which may lead to sepsis and eventually death. These events are responsible for the slowly evolving abdominal pain and other commonly associated symptoms. [12]

Mucus Secretion produced by mucous membranes

Mucus is a polymer. It is a slippery aqueous secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. It is typically produced from cells found in mucous glands, although it may also originate from mixed glands, which contain both serous and mucous cells. It is a viscous colloid containing inorganic salts, antiseptic enzymes, immunoglobulins, and glycoproteins such as lactoferrin and mucins, which are produced by goblet cells in the mucous membranes and submucosal glands. Mucus serves to protect epithelial cells in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, visual, and auditory systems; the epidermis in amphibians; and the gills in fish, against infectious agents such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. Most of the mucus produced is in the gastrointestinal tract.

Thrombosis vascular disease caused by the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system

Thrombosis is the formation of a blood clot inside a blood vessel, obstructing the flow of blood through the circulatory system. When a blood vessel is injured, the body uses platelets (thrombocytes) and fibrin to form a blood clot to prevent blood loss. Even when a blood vessel is not injured, blood clots may form in the body under certain conditions. A clot, or a piece of the clot, that breaks free and begins to travel around the body is known as an embolus.

Vascular occlusion is a blockage of a blood vessel, usually with a clot. It differs from thrombosis in that it can be used to describe any form of blockage, not just one formed by a clot. When it occurs in a major vein, it can, in some cases, cause deep vein thrombosis. The condition is also relatively common in the retina, and can cause partial or total loss of vision. An occlusion can often be diagnosed using Doppler sonography.

The causative agents include bezoars, foreign bodies, trauma, intestinal worms, lymphadenitis and, most commonly, calcified fecal deposits that are known as appendicoliths or fecaliths. [18] [19] The occurrence of obstructing fecaliths has attracted attention since their presence in people with appendicitis is higher in developed than in developing countries. [20] In addition an appendiceal fecalith is commonly associated with complicated appendicitis. [21] Fecal stasis and arrest may play a role, as demonstrated by people with acute appendicitis having fewer bowel movements per week compared with healthy controls. [19] [22]

The occurrence of a fecalith in the appendix was thought to be attributed to a right-sided fecal retention reservoir in the colon and a prolonged transit time. However, a prolonged transit time was not observed in subsequent studies. [23] Diverticular disease and adenomatous polyps was historically unknown and colon cancer was exceedingly rare in communities where appendicitis itself was rare or absent, such as various African communities. Studies have implicated a transition to a Western diet lower in fibre in rising frequencies of appendicitis as well as the other aforementioned colonic diseases in these communities. [24] [25] And acute appendicitis has been shown to occur antecedent to cancer in the colon and rectum. [26] Several studies offer evidence that a low fiber intake is involved in the pathogenesis of appendicitis. [27] [28] [29] This low intake of dietary fiber is in accordance with the occurrence of a right-sided fecal reservoir and the fact that dietary fiber reduces transit time. [30]


Appendicitis as seen on CT imaging AppendicitisMark.png
Appendicitis as seen on CT imaging

Diagnosis is based on a medical history (symptoms) and physical examination which can be supported by an elevation of neutrophilic white blood cells and imaging studies if needed. Histories fall into two categories, typical and atypical.

Typical appendicitis includes several hours of generalized abdominal pain that begins in the region of the umbilicus with associated anorexia, nausea, or vomiting. The pain then "localizes" into the right lower quadrant where the tenderness increases in intensity. It is possible the pain could localize to the left lower quadrant in people with situs inversus totalis. The combination of pain, anorexia, leukocytosis, and fever is classic.

Atypical histories lack this typical progression and may include pain in the right lower quadrant as an initial symptom. Irritation of the peritoneum (inside lining of the abdominal wall) can lead to increased pain on movement, or jolting, for example going over speed bumps. [31] Atypical histories often require imaging with ultrasound or CT scanning. [3]


Blood and urine test

While there is no laboratory test specific for appendicitis, a complete blood count (CBC) is done to check for signs of infection. Although 70–90 percent of people with appendicitis may have an elevated white blood cell (WBC) count, there are many other abdominal and pelvic conditions that can cause the WBC count to be elevated. [39] Due to its low sensitivity and specificity, on its own, WBC is not seen as a good indicator of appendicitis. [14]

A urinalysis generally does not show infection, but it is important for determining pregnancy status, especially the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy in women of childbearing age. The urinalysis is also important for ruling out a urinary tract infection as the cause of abdominal pain. The presence of more than 20 WBC per high-power field in the urine is more suggestive of a urinary tract disorder. [39]


In children the clinical examination is important to determine which children with abdominal pain should receive immediate surgical consultation and which should receive diagnostic imaging. [40] Because of the health risks of exposing children to radiation, ultrasound is the preferred first choice with CT scan being a legitimate follow-up if the ultrasound is inconclusive. [41] [42] [43] CT scan is more accurate than ultrasound for the diagnosis of appendicitis in adults and adolescents. CT scan has a sensitivity of 94%, specificity of 95%. Ultrasonography had an overall sensitivity of 86%, a specificity of 81%. [44]


Ultrasound image of acute appendicitis SonoAppendizitis.JPG
Ultrasound image of acute appendicitis

Abdominal ultrasonography, preferably with doppler sonography, is useful to detect appendicitis, especially in children. Ultrasound can show free fluid collection in the right iliac fossa, along with a visible appendix with increased blood flow when using color Doppler, and noncompressibility of the appendix, as it is essentially a walled off abscess. Other secondary sonographic signs of acute appendicitis include the presence of echogenic mesenteric fat surrounding the appendix and the acoustic shadowing of an appendicolith. [45] In some cases (approximately 5%), [46] ultrasonography of the iliac fossa does not reveal any abnormalities despite the presence of appendicitis. This false negative finding is especially true of early appendicitis before the appendix has become significantly distended. In addition, false negative findings are more common in adults where larger amounts of fat and bowel gas make visualizing the appendix technically difficult. Despite these limitations, sonographic imaging in experienced hands can often distinguish between appendicitis and other diseases with similar symptoms. Some of these conditions include inflammation of lymph nodes near the appendix or pain originating from other pelvic organs such as the ovaries or Fallopian tubes. Ultrasounds may be either done by the radiology department or by the emergency physician. [47]

Computed tomography

A CT scan demonstrating acute appendicitis (note the appendix has a diameter of 17.1 mm and there is surrounding fat stranding) CAT scan demonstrating acute appendicitis.jpg
A CT scan demonstrating acute appendicitis (note the appendix has a diameter of 17.1 mm and there is surrounding fat stranding)
A fecalith marked by the arrow that has resulted in acute appendicitis. X-ray showing fecalith which has caused appendicitis.jpg
A fecalith marked by the arrow that has resulted in acute appendicitis.

Where it is readily available, computed tomography (CT) has become frequently used, especially in people whose diagnosis is not obvious on history and physical examination. Concerns about radiation tend to limit use of CT in pregnant women and children, especially with the increasingly widespread usage of MRI. [49] [50]

The accurate diagnosis of appendicitis is multi-tiered, with the size of the appendix having the strongest positive predictive value, while indirect features can either increase or decrease sensitivity and specificity. A size of over 6 mm is both 95% sensitive and specific for appendicitis. [51]

However, because the appendix can be filled with fecal material, causing intraluminal distention, this criterion has shown limited utility in more recent meta analyses. [52] This is as opposed to ultrasound, in which the wall of the appendix can be more easily distinguished from intraluminal feces. In such scenarios, ancillary features such as increased wall enhancement as compared to adjacent bowel and inflammation of the surrounding fat, or fat stranding, can be supportive of the diagnosis, although their absence does not preclude it. In severe cases with perforation, an adjacent phlegmon or abscess can be seen. Dense fluid layering in the pelvis can also result, related to either pus or enteric spillage. When patients are thin or younger, the relative absence of fat can make the appendix and surrounding fat stranding difficult to see. [52]

Magnetic resonance imaging

MRI use has become increasingly common for diagnosis of appendicitis in children and pregnant patients due to the radiation dosage that, while of nearly negligible risk in healthy adults, can be harmful to children or the developing baby. In pregnancy, it has been found to be more useful during the second and third trimester, particularly as the enlargening uterus displaces the appendix, making it difficult to find by ultrasound. The periappendiceal stranding that is reflected on CT by fat stranding on MRI appears as increased fluid signal on T2 weighted sequences. First trimester pregnancies are usually not candidates for MRI, as the fetus is still undergoing organogenesis, and there are no long-term studies to date regarding its potential risks or side effects. [53]


Appendicolith as seen on plain X-ray AppendicolithPlainXray.png
Appendicolith as seen on plain X-ray

In general, plain abdominal radiography (PAR) is not useful in making the diagnosis of appendicitis and should not be routinely obtained from a person being evaluated for appendicitis. [54] [55] Plain abdominal films may be useful for the detection of ureteral calculi, small bowel obstruction, or perforated ulcer, but these conditions are rarely confused with appendicitis. [56] An opaque fecalith can be identified in the right lower quadrant in fewer than 5% of people being evaluated for appendicitis. [39] A barium enema has proven to be a poor diagnostic tool for appendicitis. While failure of the appendix to fill during a barium enema has been associated with appendicitis, up to 20% of normal appendices do not fill. [56]

Scoring systems

No excellent scoring system exists to determine if a child has appendicitis. [57] The Alvarado score and pediatric appendicitis score are useful but not definitive. [57]

The Alvarado score is the most widely used scoring system. A score below 5 suggests against a diagnosis of appendicitis, whereas a score of 7 or more is predictive of acute appendicitis. In a person with an equivocal score of 5 or 6, a CT scan or ultrasound exam may be used to reduce the rate of negative appendectomy.

Alvarado score
Migratory right iliac fossa pain1 point
Anorexia 1 point
Nausea and vomiting 1 point
Right iliac fossa tenderness 2 points
Rebound abdominal tenderness 1 point
Fever 1 point
High white blood cell count (leukocytosis)2 points
Shift to left (segmented neutrophils)1 point
Total score10 points


The definitive diagnosis is based on pathology. The histologic finding of appendicitis is neutrophilic infiltrate of the muscularis propria.

Periappendicitis, inflammation of tissues around the appendix, is often found in conjunction with other abdominal pathology. [58]

Differential diagnosis

Coronal CT scan of a person initially suspected of having appendicitis because of right-sided pain. The CT shows in fact an enlarged inflamed gallbladder that reaches the right lower part of the abdomen. Enlarged gallbladder with gallstone and cholecystitis.jpg
Coronal CT scan of a person initially suspected of having appendicitis because of right-sided pain. The CT shows in fact an enlarged inflamed gallbladder that reaches the right lower part of the abdomen.

Children: Gastroenteritis, mesenteric adenitis, Meckel's diverticulitis, intussusception, Henoch–Schönlein purpura, lobar pneumonia, urinary tract infection (abdominal pain in the absence of other symptoms can occur in children with UTI), new-onset Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, pancreatitis, and abdominal trauma from child abuse; distal intestinal obstruction syndrome in children with cystic fibrosis; typhlitis in children with leukemia.

Women: A pregnancy test is important for all women of childbearing age since an ectopic pregnancy can have signs and symptoms similar to those of appendicitis. Other obstetrical/gynecological causes of similar abdominal pain in women include pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian torsion, menarche, dysmenorrhea, endometriosis, and Mittelschmerz (the passing of an egg in the ovaries approximately two weeks before menstruation). [59]

Men: testicular torsion

Adults: new-onset Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, regional enteritis, cholecystitis, renal colic, perforated peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, rectus sheath hematoma and epiploic appendagitis.

Elderly: diverticulitis, intestinal obstruction, colonic carcinoma, mesenteric ischemia, leaking aortic aneurysm.

The term "pseudoappendicitis" is used to describe a condition mimicking appendicitis. [60] It can be associated with Yersinia enterocolitica . [61]


Acute appendicitis is typically managed by surgery. While antibiotics are safe and effective for treating uncomplicated appendicitis, [7] [62] 26% of people had a recurrence within a year and required an eventual appendectomy. [63] Antibiotics are less effective if an appendicolith is present. [64] Surgery is the standard management approach for acute appendicitis. [65] The cost effectiveness of surgery versus antibiotics is unclear. [66]

Using antibiotics to prevent potential postoperative complications in emergency appendectomy procedures is recommended, and the antibiotics are effective when given to a person before, during, or after surgery. [67]


Pain medications (such as morphine) do not appear to affect the accuracy of the clinical diagnosis of appendicitis and therefore should be given early in the patient's care. [68] Historically there were concerns among some general surgeons that analgesics would affect the clinical exam in children, and some recommended that they not be given until the surgeon was able to examine the person. [68]


Inflamed appendix removal by open surgery Inflamed appendix.jpg
Inflamed appendix removal by open surgery
Laparoscopic appendectomy. Appendix-Entfernung.jpg
Laparoscopic appendectomy.

The surgical procedure for the removal of the appendix is called an appendectomy. Appendectomy can be performed through open or laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic appendectomy has several advantages over open appendectomy as an intervention for acute appendicitis. [69]

Open appendectomy

For over a century, laparotomy (open appendectomy) was the standard treatment for acute appendicitis. [70] This procedure consists of the removal of the infected appendix through a single large incision in the lower right area of the abdomen. [71] The incision in a laparotomy is usually 2 to 3 inches (51 to 76 mm) long.

During an open appendectomy, the person with suspected appendicitis is placed under general anesthesia to keep the muscles completely relaxed and to keep the person unconscious. The incision is two to three inches (76 mm) long and it is made in the right lower abdomen, several inches above the hip bone. Once the incision opens the abdomen cavity and the appendix is identified, the surgeon removes the infected tissue and cuts the appendix from the surrounding tissue. After careful and close inspection of the infected area, and ensuring there are no signs that surrounding tissues are damaged or infected. In case of a complicated appendicitis managed by emergency open appendectomy, abdominal drainage (a temporary tube from the abdomen to the outside to avoid abscess formation) may be inserted but this may increase the hospital stay. [72] The surgeon will start closing the incision. This means sewing the muscles and using surgical staples or stitches to close the skin up. To prevent infections, the incision is covered with a sterile bandage or surgical adhesive.

Laparoscopic appendectomy

Laparoscopic appendectomy has become an increasingly prevalent intervention for acute appendicitis since its introduction in 1983. [73] This surgical procedure consists of making three to four incisions in the abdomen, each 0.25 to 0.5 inches (6.4 to 12.7 mm) long. This type of appendectomy is made by inserting a special surgical tool called a laparoscope into one of the incisions. The laparoscope is connected to a monitor outside the person's body and it is designed to help the surgeon to inspect the infected area in the abdomen. The other two incisions are made for the specific removal of the appendix by using surgical instruments. Laparoscopic surgery requires general anesthesia, and it can last up to two hours. Laparoscopic appendectomy has several advantages over open appendectomy, including a shorter post-operative recovery, less post-operative pain, and lower superficial surgical site infection rate. However, the occurrence of intra-abdominal abscess is almost three times more prevalent in laparoscopic appendectomy than open appendectomy. [74]


The treatment begins by keeping the person who will be having surgery from eating or drinking for a given period, usually overnight. An intravenous drip is used to hydrate the person who will be having surgery. Antibiotics given intravenously such as cefuroxime and metronidazole may be administered early to help kill bacteria and thus reduce the spread of infection in the abdomen and postoperative complications in the abdomen or wound. Equivocal cases may become more difficult to assess with antibiotic treatment and benefit from serial examinations. If the stomach is empty (no food in the past six hours) general anaesthesia is usually used. Otherwise, spinal anaesthesia may be used.

Once the decision to perform an appendectomy has been made, the preparation procedure takes approximately one to two hours. Meanwhile, the surgeon will explain the surgery procedure and will present the risks that must be considered when performing an appendectomy. (With all surgeries there are risks that must be evaluated before performing the procedures.) The risks are different depending on the state of the appendix. If the appendix has not ruptured, the complication rate is only about 3% but if the appendix has ruptured, the complication rate rises to almost 59%. [75] The most usual complications that can occur are pneumonia, hernia of the incision, thrombophlebitis, bleeding or adhesions. Recent evidence indicates that a delay in obtaining surgery after admission results in no measurable difference in outcomes to the person with appendicitis. [76] [77]

The surgeon will explain how long the recovery process should take. Abdomen hair is usually removed to avoid complications that may appear regarding the incision.

In most cases, patients going in for surgery experience nausea or vomiting that requires medication before surgery. Antibiotics along with pain medication may be administrated before appendectomies.

After surgery

The stitches the day after having the appendix removed by laparoscopic surgery Stitches post appendicitis surgery.jpg
The stitches the day after having the appendix removed by laparoscopic surgery

Hospital lengths of stay typically range from a few hours to a few days but can be a few weeks if complications occur. The recovery process may vary depending on the severity of the condition: if the appendix had ruptured or not before surgery. Appendix surgery recovery is generally a lot faster if the appendix did not rupture. [78] It is important that people undergoing surgery respect their doctor's advice and limit their physical activity so the tissues can heal faster. Recovery after an appendectomy may not require diet changes or a lifestyle change.

Length of hospital stays for appendicitis varies on the severity of the condition. A study from the United States found that in 2010, the average appendicitis hospital stay was 1.8 days. For stays where the person's appendix had ruptured, the average length of stay was 5.2 days. [13]

After surgery, the patient will be transferred to a postanesthesia care unit so his or her vital signs can be closely monitored to detect anesthesia- or surgery-related complications. Pain medication may be administered if necessary. After patients are completely awake, they are moved to a hospital room to recover. Most individuals will be offered clear liquids the day after the surgery, then progress to a regular diet when the intestines start to function properly. Patients are recommended to sit up on the edge of the bed and walk short distances several times a day. Moving is mandatory and pain medication may be given if necessary. Full recovery from appendectomies takes about four to six weeks but can be prolonged to up to eight weeks if the appendix had ruptured.


Most people with appendicitis recover easily after surgical treatment, but complications can occur if treatment is delayed or if peritonitis occurs. Recovery time depends on age, condition, complications, and other circumstances, including the amount of alcohol consumption, but usually is between 10 and 28 days. For young children (around 10 years old), the recovery takes three weeks.

The possibility of peritonitis is the reason why acute appendicitis warrants speedy evaluation and treatment. People with suspected appendicitis may have to undergo a medical evacuation. Appendectomies have occasionally been performed in emergency conditions (i.e., not in a proper hospital), when a timely medical evacuation was impossible.

Typical acute appendicitis responds quickly to appendectomy and occasionally will resolve spontaneously. If appendicitis resolves spontaneously, it remains controversial whether an elective interval appendectomy should be performed to prevent a recurrent episode of appendicitis. Atypical appendicitis (associated with suppurative appendicitis) is more difficult to diagnose and is more apt to be complicated even when operated early. In either condition, prompt diagnosis and appendectomy yield the best results with full recovery in two to four weeks usually. Mortality and severe complications are unusual but do occur, especially if peritonitis persists and is untreated.

Another entity known as appendicular lump is talked about. It happens when the appendix is not removed early during infection and omentum and intestine adhere to it, forming a palpable lump. During this period, surgery is risky unless there is pus formation evident by fever and toxicity or by USG. Medical management treats the condition.

An unusual complication of an appendectomy is "stump appendicitis": inflammation occurs in the remnant appendiceal stump left after a prior incomplete appendectomy. [79] Stump appendicitis can occur months to years after initial appendectomy and can be identified with imaging modalities like ultrasound. [80]


Appendicitis deaths per million persons in 2012
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34-77 Appendicitis world map-Deaths per million persons-WHO2012.svg
Appendicitis deaths per million persons in 2012
Disability-adjusted life year for appendicitis per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.
no data
less than 2.5
more than 27.5 Appendicitis world map - DALY - WHO2004.svg
Disability-adjusted life year for appendicitis per 100,000 inhabitants in 2004.
  no data
  less than 2.5
  more than 27.5

Appendicitis is most common between the ages of 5 and 40; [82] the median age is 28. Risk factors include being male, higher household income and living in a rural area. [83] In 2013 it resulted in 72,000 deaths globally down from 88,000 in 1990. [84]

In the United States, there were nearly 293,000 hospitalizations involving appendicitis in 2010. [13] Appendicitis is one of the most frequent diagnoses for emergency department visits resulting in hospitalization among children ages 5–17 years in the United States. [85]

Related Research Articles

The term abdominal surgery broadly covers surgical procedures that involve opening the abdomen (laparotomy). Surgery of each abdominal organ is dealt with separately in connection with the description of that organ Diseases affecting the abdominal cavity are dealt with generally under their own names.

Hernia digestive system disorder

A hernia is the abnormal exit of tissue or an organ, such as the bowel, through the wall of the cavity in which it normally resides. Hernias come in a number of types. Most commonly they involve the abdomen, specifically the groin. Groin hernias are most common of the inguinal type but may also be femoral. Other hernias include hiatus, incisional, and umbilical hernias. Symptoms are present in about 66% of people with groin hernias. This may include pain or discomfort especially with coughing, exercise, or going to the bathroom. Often it gets worse throughout the day and improves when lying down. A bulging area may occur that becomes larger when bearing down. Groin hernias occur more often on the right than left side. The main concern is strangulation, where the blood supply to part of the bowel is blocked. This usually produces severe pain and tenderness of the area. Hiatus or hiatal hernias often result in heartburn but may also cause chest pain or pain with eating.

Peritonitis inflammation of the peritoneum, the lining of the inner wall of the abdomen

Peritonitis is inflammation of the peritoneum, the lining of the inner wall of the abdomen and cover of the abdominal organs. Symptoms may include severe pain, swelling of the abdomen, fever, or weight loss. One part or the entire abdomen may be tender. Complications may include shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Cholecystitis cholangitis that is characterized by an inflammation that is located in the gallbladder

Cholecystitis is inflammation of the gallbladder. Symptoms include right upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and occasionally fever. Often gallbladder attacks precede acute cholecystitis. The pain lasts longer in cholecystitis than in a typical gallbladder attack. Without appropriate treatment, recurrent episodes of cholecystitis are common. Complications of acute cholecystitis include gallstone pancreatitis, common bile duct stones, or inflammation of the common bile duct.

Bowel obstruction Human disease

Bowel obstruction, also known as intestinal obstruction, is a mechanical or functional obstruction of the intestines which prevents the normal movement of the products of digestion. Either the small bowel or large bowel may be affected. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating and not passing gas. Mechanical obstruction is the cause of about 5 to 15% of cases of severe abdominal pain of sudden onset requiring admission to hospital.

McBurneys point

McBurney's point is the name given to the point over the right side of the abdomen that is one-third of the distance from the anterior superior iliac spine to the umbilicus (navel). This point roughly corresponds to the most common location of the base of the appendix where it is attached to the cecum.

Cholecystectomy surgical removal of the gallbladder

Cholecystectomy is the surgical removal of the gallbladder. Cholecystectomy is a common treatment of symptomatic gallstones and other gallbladder conditions. In 2011, cholecystectomy was the 8th most common operating room procedure performed in hospitals in the United States. Cholecystectomy can be performed either laparoscopically, using a video camera, or via an open surgical technique.

Diverticulitis digestive disease caused by an inflammation of a herniating pouch (diverticulum) within the wall of the intestine, most often colon

Diverticulitis, specifically colonic diverticulitis, is a gastrointestinal disease characterized by inflammation of abnormal pouches—diverticula—which can develop in the wall of the large intestine. Symptoms typically include lower abdominal pain of sudden onset, but onset may also occur over a few days. In North America and Europe the abdominal pain is usually on the left lower side, while in Asia it is usually on the right. There may also be nausea; and diarrhea or constipation. Fever or blood in the stool suggests a complication. Repeated attacks may occur.

Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome

Fitz-Hugh–Curtis syndrome is a rare complication of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) involving liver capsule inflammation leading to the creation of adhesions. The condition is named after the two physicians, Thomas Fitz-Hugh, Jr and Arthur Hale Curtis who first reported this condition in 1934 and 1930 respectively.

Aortic aneurysm orta to greater than 1.5 times normal size.

An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement (dilatation) of the aorta to greater than 1.5 times normal size. They usually cause no symptoms except when ruptured. Occasionally, there may be abdominal, back, or leg pain.

Acute pancreatitis Human disease

Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas. Causes in order of frequency include a gallstone impacted in the common bile duct beyond the point where the pancreatic duct joins it; heavy alcohol use; systemic disease; trauma; and, in minors, mumps. Acute pancreatitis may be a single event; it may be recurrent; or it may progress to chronic pancreatitis.

Intussusception (medical disorder) Human disease

Intussusception is a medical condition in which a part of the intestine folds into the section immediately ahead of it. It typically involves the small bowel and less commonly the large bowel. Symptoms include abdominal pain which may come and go, vomiting, abdominal bloating, and bloody stool. It often results in a small bowel obstruction. Other complications may include peritonitis or bowel perforation.

An acute abdomen refers to a sudden, severe abdominal pain. It is in many cases a medical emergency, requiring urgent and specific diagnosis. Several causes need surgical treatment.

Epiploic appendagitis

Epiploic appendagitis (EA) is an uncommon, benign, self-limiting inflammatory process of the epiploic appendices. Other, older terms for the process include appendicitis epiploica and appendagitis, but these terms are used less now in order to avoid confusion with acute appendicitis.

Biliary colic Medical condition in which gallstones cause acute pain

Biliary colic, also known as a gallbladder attack or gallstone attack, is when a colic occurs due to a gallstone temporarily blocking the cystic duct. Typically, the pain is in the right upper part of the abdomen. Pain usually lasts from 15 minutes to a few hours. Often, it occurs after eating a heavy meal, or during the night. Repeated attacks are common.

Abdominal trauma injury to the abdomen

Abdominal trauma is an injury to the abdomen. Signs and symptoms include abdominal pain, tenderness, rigidity, and bruising of the external abdomen. Complications may include blood loss and infection.

Cystogastrostomy is a surgery to create an opening between a pancreatic pseudocyst and the stomach when the cyst is in a suitable position to be drained into the stomach. This conserves pancreatic juices that would otherwise be lost. This surgery is performed by a pancreatic surgeon to avoid a life-threatening rupture of the pancreatic pseudocyst.


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