The appendix is one of those organs that you just don’t think about, unless it becomes infected. An estimated five to seven percent of the population will experience appendicitis during their lifetime.

According to Dr. Roland B. Weast, MD, FACS, at Premier Surgical Associates Tennova North Knoxville location,  appendicitis can occur in anyone at any age, from infants to the elderly.

“Appendicitis is random,” Dr. Weast says. “There is no association with weight, gender, age, or heredity, and it comes on rapidly. Patients usually feel very ill within 12 to 24 hours.”

Appendicitis typically causes abdominal pain, which may begin as a vague or general pain that becomes progressively more severe in the right lower quadrant of the abdomen. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and fevers are also often symptoms accompanying appendicitis. But the pain can be different for each person. For example, the appendix sits higher in the abdomen in pregnant women, so the pain may be more in the upper right quadrant.

The condition does not improve or go away on its own, and the appendix must be surgically removed. Fortunately, the appendix is not necessary for survival, and its removal typically cures the appendicitis.

The appendix is a small finger-shaped pouch connected to the large intestine. “The purpose of the appendix is controversial,” says Dr. Weast. “No one is certain. But when it becomes infected it’s considered a medical emergency that requires prompt surgery.”

If untreated, the infected appendix can rupture and spill bacteria and fecal matter into the abdomen. This can lead to peritonitis, which is a serious inflammation of the abdominal cavity’s lining that can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.

The good news is that surgical procedures for appendicitis have evolved greatly, and many can be done laparoscopically, which means smaller and less invasive incisions, less pain, and less time in the hospital. If caught in the earliest stages, an appendectomy can be performed on an outpatient basis.

Premier Surgical Associates is the largest surgical group in the Knoxville region, providing comprehensive surgical care, with referrals from across the entire East Tennessee region. To learn more about our specialties, visit Premier Surgical Associates.