Appendicitis can be hard to diagnose correctly. Many other conditions have similar symptoms, such as urinary tract infections, and gastroenteritis (an infection of the stomach).
Almost half of people with appendicitis do not have the typical symptoms, and some people's appendix is located in a different part of their body. For example:
- in the pelvis
- behind the colon (large intestine)
- behind the liver
Your GP will ask about your symptoms, examine your abdomen, and see if the pain gets worse when pressure is applied to the location of your appendix.
If your symptoms are typical of appendicitis, this is normally enough for your GP to diagnose the condition. However, if your symptoms are not typical, further tests may be required to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions.
Further tests that you may have include:
blood tests - an increased amount of white blood cells in your blood indicates the presence of an infection
urine tests - to help rule out conditions such as a bladder or kidney infection
magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI) scan - when a strong magnetic field and radio waves are used to build up a picture of the inside of your body
(CT) scan - when a series of X-ray images and a computer are used to build up a detailed image of the inside of your body
ultrasound scan - when high-frequency sound waves are used to create an image of the inside of your body
MRI and CT scans have proven very reliable in detecting appendicitis. An ultrasound scan may be used on children as it does not use radiation and is therefore safer. Access to these scans may be limited in your local area. You may have to wait several days to have a scan.
In some cases, waiting for a scan to confirm the diagnosis may be considered too dangerous as there is a risk that your appendix might burst while you wait. If this is the case, your appendix may be removed immediately. If your surgeon is sure you have appendicitis, then a scan is not necessary.
The abdomen is the part of the body between the chest and the hips.
The appendix is a narrow muscular pocket in the abdomen that has no known function. It is attached to the large intestine.
The intestines are the part of the digestive system between the stomach and the anus that digests and absorbs food and liquid.
The sac-like organ of the digestive system. It helps digest food by churning it and mixing it with acids to break it down into smaller pieces.
Urinary system (urinary tract)
The urinary system is made up of the kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder and the urethra. The urethra is the tube through which we urinate.
White blood cells
White blood cells are the part of blood that fight infection and disease.