Appendicitis is a widespread inflammatory disease which can affect individuals of all ages but is most common in children under 14 years. This is because children have an under developed immune system compared to adults.
But why does it happen, how does it manifest itself and when is it appropriate to take action to prevent serious complications?
Dr. Stephen Bona, Head of General Surgery and Digestive Humanitas, answered the above in a recent interview with Ok Health.
What is appendicitis?
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, namely the small formation located in the lower large intestine. We do not know the exact role of the appendix in the body but we think it plays an important protective function from infections for the intestine.
How does this inflamation manifest itself?
“Many times the symptoms begins with an abdominal pain and a more common and general malaise often associated with nausea. It then localizes over the hours in the lower right corner,” explains Dr. Bona. He adds: “Depending on the severity of the infection it can then manifest other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and fever”.
How to behave in front of the first symptoms?
First we should take a painkiller or an antispasmodic. If after a few hours the pain does not stop, you should consult your primary care physician. The latter, after a careful examination will rule out other diseases, such as bowel or gynecological. If the pain increases and is associated with other symptoms then it must be directed immediately to a hospital for a surgical emergency visit.
How is appendicitis treated?
If it is a mild form of inflammation it is treated with antibiotics administered under close medical supervision. However, in most cases it is necessary to resort to surgical removal of the appendix, namely at the appendectomy.
When is surgery necessary?
It depends on the severity of the clinical picture and the outcome of blood tests: an increase in white blood cells for example, is indicative of a state of inflammation of the appendix.
In more acute cases it is a medical emergency. It is crucial to act quickly to avert serious and feared complications, such as peritonitis (ie drilling inflamed appendix) or the abdominal abscess, which could seriously endanger the patient’s life.
What is the appendectomy?
This surgical procedure is done in general anesthesia. “In principle, the procedure can be performed laparoscopically, as it provides an excellent view of the entire abdominal cavity and is less traumatic for the patient. Generally it involves three small incisions, one in the vicinity of the navel and two in the pubic area, which allow you to insert a small camera (laparoscope) and the necessary surgical instruments. In addition, the complete abdominal exploration offered by laparoscopy allows the surgeon the possibility to diagnose other diseases. This is especially important in young women, who experience abdominal pain similar to appendicitis. In 20-30% of the cases this pain is actually related to gynecological causes”, says Dr. Bona.
How long is the hospital stay after surgery?
If there are no complications, it usually takes 24-48 hours before the patient is discharged and can gradually resume eating.