Appendicitis is an inflamed or infected appendix. Appendicitis is a medical emergency because an inflamed appendix can rupture and be life threatening.
The appendix is a pouch-like structure in the lower right side of the belly, usually where the large intestine connects to the small intestine. The appendix is three to six inches long. Its function is not entirely clear. The appendix may help the body fight infection, but it is not a necessary organ.
At Dignity Health, our skilled doctors treat emergency appendicitis and perform emergency appendectomy in Arizona. Our Phoenix area hospitals are located in Ahwatukee, Phoenix, Chandler, Gilbert, Laveen, Goodyear, Surprise, Mesa, and Glendale.
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Symptoms of Appendicitis
The main symptom of appendicitis is belly pain. It often starts near the belly button and spreads to the lower right side. Sometimes, the whole belly area is painful. The pain usually occurs suddenly, progresses rapidly, and worsens when you move, take a deep breath, or cough or sneeze.
Other signs and symptoms of appendicitis are:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Fever and chills
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Inability to pass gas
If you have symptoms of appendicitis, see a doctor immediately. Your doctor may order a blood test to check for infection or an abdominal ultrasound or CT scan to see if the appendix is swollen.
Causes of Appendicitis
The appendix opens into the large intestine, or colon. Most cases of appendicitis result from mucus, stool, or a foreign body becoming trapped inside the appendix and blocking the opening. The obstructed appendix then becomes irritated, inflamed, or infected.
If your appendix ruptures, contaminated contents from the appendix can leak into the abdominal cavity, resulting in a severe infection called peritonitis.
Appendicitis Treatment at Dignity Health
Treatment options depend upon whether or not your appendix has burst. Immediate surgery is the usual treatment for appendicitis because of the high risk of rupture. An inflamed appendix can rupture as soon as 48 to 72 hours after symptoms first start. When the appendix ruptures, infection can spread throughout the belly and cause life-threatening peritonitis. An appendectomy will prevent or treat peritonitis.
Sometimes, people don’t realize they have appendicitis until their appendix bursts. This is more common in very young or very old people. It is also more common during pregnancy. If your appendix ruptures, you can become very ill very quickly. Surgery to remove the appendix and clean out the belly is necessary. Your hospital stay will likely be longer with a burst appendix. Dignity Health provides high-quality emergency services, including emergency appendicitis treatment and emergency appendectomy, in Arizona.