What Side Is the Appendix on?

image001Appendicitis is a common condition that involves an inflammation of a small outpouching of the intestine, called the appendix. It starts as a blockage and manifests as abdominal pain that can mimic other conditions. This is why many people wonder what side is the appendix on-to determine if their symptoms constitute a medical emergency. What side is the appendix on? What are the causes, symptoms and treatments for appendicitis?

What Side Is the Appendix on?

Your appendix is a small (about four inches), thin pouch that extends out between the small and large intestines. It has a length of about 11 cm and a diameter of 7-8 mm (average). The longest appendix ever removed measured 26 cm from a patient in Zagreb, Croatia.

It is located at the right lower abdomen. Although it was believed to be a useless part of the digestive system, it is now known that it plays a role in protecting the body from infection because it contains cells with immune function.

Problems of Appendix - Appendicitis

Definition

When the appendix is inflamed, a condition called appendicitis ensues. The reaction produces pus, which leads to severe pain that starts around the navel (belly button) and later shifts to the right lower abdomen. The pain intensifies within several hours (12-18 usually) and becomes severe. This condition usually affects children and young adults, although it can happen at any age.

Symptoms

The typical signs and symptoms of appendicitis include:

  • Abdominal pain that begins near the navel and later localizes at the right lower abdomen
  • Pain becomes sharp in character after several hours
  • Abdominal tenderness when pressure is applied to the right lower abdomen
  • A sharp pain felt when the right lower abdomen is pressed and quickly released. This is called rebound tenderness
  • Coughing, walking and other movements increase the pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low-grade fever
  • Inability to pass gas
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

When to See a Doctor

It is advisable to seek consultation when abdominal pain is severe, such that you/your child cannot sit still or you are uncomfortable in any position.

Causes

Although yet unclear, appendicitis may be related to:

  • An acute obstruction in the opening of the appendix, which may consist of food or fecal matter
  • An acute infection such as a gastrointestinal viral infection or other types of acute inflammation

In either case, bacteria found inside your appendix can multiply rapidly, leading to inflammation and swelling. These can result in rupture of the appendix if not immediately treated.

Complications

Serious complications can occur when acute appendicitis is not treated. These include:

  • Rupture of the appendix, leading to leakage of intestinal contents into the abdominal cavity, and resulting in peritonitis (infection of the abdominal cavity).
  • Abdominal abscess, which results from the formation of a pocket of pus around your appendix. The abscess could tear and cause a widespread infection in the abdominal cavity.

Medical Treatments

  • Surgery

Surgical removal of the appendix (appendectomy) may be performed either as an open abdominal incision (5-10 cm) or through a laparoscopic incision (1-2 cm) using special devices attached to a video camera. Open surgery is often indicated for ruptured appendix and cleaning of the abdominal cavity while laparoscopic appendectomy is done for uncomplicated appendicitis. Laparoscopy results in faster healing and shorter hospital stay.

You are required to stay in the hospital one or two days after your appendectomy surgery.

  • Draining of the abscess
    For ruptured appendix, surgeons must drain the abscess using a tube placed through the skin into the abdomen. Appendectomy is performed weeks later when the infection is controlled.
  • Medications

Antibiotics and pain medications to control discomfort after appendectomy are prescribed.

Complementary and alternative treatment can also help control symptoms, including listening to music and guided imagery to take your mind off the pain.

Home Remedies

Try these home remedies during recovery from surgery:

  • Rest for 3-5 days and sleep well. Avoid doing strenuous activities. People who undergo open appendectomy may need longer rest (10-14 days). Sleep when you are tired.
  • Abdominal support. Using a pillow, apply pressure to your abdomen whenever you laugh, cough, or do other movements to reduce pain.
  • Start doing light activities when you are ready. Consult your doctor about going back to work or school. Children may be able to return to school within a week after surgery, but gym class or sports, should be limited for two to four weeks after surgery.

Call the doctor if you need more pain control or have:

  • Uncontrolled vomiting
  • Increased pain and redness in your incision
  • Increased pain in your abdomen
  • Dizziness/feelings of faintness
  • Fever
  • Blood in your urine or vomit
  • Pus in the wound
 
 
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