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Appendicitis - What will happen to me?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If you have appendicitis, you will probably need surgery to take out your appendix. Your doctor may call this an appendectomy.

Your appendix can be removed through open surgery, when the surgeon makes a cut in your lower abdomen. Or it can be done through keyhole surgery, which is done using three or four smaller cuts, and with the help of cameras. Keyhole surgery is also called laparoscopy.

When you go to your doctor with pain in your abdomen, he or she will feel the area to see if it is tender. If your doctor thinks you might have appendicitis, he or she may do some tests, such as blood tests. If you are a woman, your doctor may suggest a test to see if you're pregnant. That's because appendicitis can be more difficult for your doctor to spot if you're pregnant.

At the hospital, you may have a scan to see whether your appendix is inflamed or has burst. This could be an ultrasound or a computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan may be a little more accurate, but an ultrasound is quicker to do.[8]

Sometimes your doctor may still not be sure whether you have appendicitis. This is more likely if you are a woman. To find out for certain whether you have appendicitis, your doctor may do keyhole surgery (laparoscopy) to look inside your abdomen. If you have appendicitis, your appendix can be taken out during the operation.

It's difficult to say what would happen to you if you got appendicitis and didn't have surgery. Sometimes an inflamed appendix bursts. This can cause a dangerous infection in your abdomen, called peritonitis. Between about 2 in 10 and 4 in 10 people get a burst appendix a day or two after they first get symptoms of appendicitis.[9] So doctors think it is very important to take out a person's appendix quickly.

A burst appendix is more common in babies, young children, and older people. That's because appendicitis is harder for doctors to spot in children and older people.[9]

If your appendix does burst, you'll probably need emergency surgery. And you'll be given antibiotics to treat your infection. A burst appendix is more serious than ordinary appendicitis, but most people still recover well.

We don't know what happens to people who don't have treatment for appendicitis. It wouldn't be fair to do studies, because we know that a burst appendix can be dangerous. However, some people do seem to get appendicitis that goes on its own.[10][11][12] And one study found that at least 10 in 100 people seem to get better without treatment.[13]

After surgery, most people recover very well from appendicitis. However, all operations have risks. It is possible for someone to die during surgery to remove their appendix. But the risk is very small. Less than 3 in 1,000 people die during the operation or soon afterwards.[14] If someone's appendix bursts before surgery, the risk is slightly higher, but most people still recover completely. About 17 in 1,000 people die if their appendix bursts before they have surgery.[14]

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Last Updated: August 22, 2013
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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