Acute Appendicitis

This is likely one of the most common surgical emergencies in children. Although appendicitis can strike at any age, it typically affects older children to young adults. The appendix is a vestigial organ used during our formative years to complement our immune systems and later becomes obsolete. It is a small, finger-shaped organ that projects from the large intestine and occasionally can become blocked by bacteria, viruses, and stool. Pain around the umbilicus (belly button) develops incidentally and steadily localizes to the right lower quadrant. The pain varies from a dull to a sharp ache worsened with movement, coughing, and even walking. Many patients are unable to jump and insist on sitting still. Nausea, vomiting, and anorexia (poor appetite) develop many times as well as a fever.

Is it an Emergency?

Yes, acute appendicitis is considered a surgical emergency. Complications from delayed presentations to the ER include appendix rupture and peritonitis (inflammation of the membrane that lines the abdomen and pelvis). Abscess (pocket of pus) formation can also develop delaying surgical interventions.

How is it diagnosed?

History and physical examination by a trained clinician and commonly ordered abdominal imaging including ultrasound and/or CT scan, and blood studies to look for signs of infection.

How is it treated?

Most patients will undergo antibiotic therapy and a laparoscopic appendectomy. A minimally invasive procedure performed by an experienced surgeon using a tiny camera to remove the appendix followed by a short recovery.