Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small, finger-shaped pouch where the large and small intestines join. Scientists are not sure what the appendix does, if anything. But when it is inflamed, it gets swollen and painful and can cause serious problems.
It is important to get treatment for appendicitis before the appendix ruptures. A rupture is a break or tear in the appendix. If an infected appendix breaks open, infection and bowel movement may spread inside the abdomen. This can cause a life-threatening infection of the belly called peritonitis.
Because of the risk of rupture, appendicitis is considered an emergency.
In most cases, appendicitis is caused by a blockage of the opening of the appendix by a piece of stool. Sometimes it is caused by infection in the digestive tract.
Appendicitis is a common reason for emergency abdominal surgery in children. Most surgeries are done in children who are between 8 to 16 years of age. It is slightly more common in boys than girls.
The most common symptoms include:
Not all children have all of these symptoms.
Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose appendicitis in young children. Your healthcare provider will review your child's symptoms and do an exam. Your child may have the following tests:
Children receive antibiotics both before and after surgery. When the appendix is inflamed, it must be removed. The operation is called an appendectomy. There are 2 kinds of surgery: laparoscopic or open surgery. In laparoscopic surgery, the doctor makes a tiny cut in your child's abdomen and inserts the laparoscope through the cut. A laparoscope is a thin metal tube with a light and tiny camera. Other tiny cuts are made to place tools used during the operation. The surgeon removes the appendix with a tool that can cut tissue and stop bleeding. An open surgery involves one larger cut in the lower right side of the belly.
A rupture of the appendix can also cause an abscess (infected sore) near the place where the appendix ruptured. If the appendix does rupture, the surgeon may put a drainage tube in the abdomen to let the infection drain for a few days after surgery.
Your child may receive fluids and antibiotics through an IV line. Some children are wide awake almost immediately. Other children are groggy for hours. Your child may feel sick to his stomach when waking up after surgery. Food or drinks are not given until gas or stool is passed. Then your child is given clear liquids. If your child is able to take clear liquids without nausea or vomiting, he will be allowed to eat regular food.
Taking deep breaths and sitting up can help speed up recovery. Once your child is no longer sleepy, he will be encouraged to get up and walk around the room and hallway.
If the appendix has not ruptured, most children are able to go home within 24 to 48 hours after it is removed and to school in about 1 week. A child who has had a ruptured appendix is usually in the hospital for at least 4 to 5 days.
Keep the surgery site clean and dry for at least 2 days after surgery. There are difference kinds of dressings that can be used on your child's wound.
Children can live a normal life without an appendix.
Call your provider if: