The appendix is a finger-like tube that is attached to the intestine in the lower right portion of the abdomen. The average appendix is 9 cm in length (about 3.5 inches). No one really knows the purpose that the appendix serves. It does have lymph tissue around it which may help fight infection, but there appears to be no other purpose for this organ.
When the appendix becomes blocked by feces or a stone, it can become inflamed. This typically causes pain and vomiting, and is called “appendicitis”. Often the pain starts in the center of the stomach, then moves to the lower right side.
Appendicitis can be diagnosed by CT scan or ultrasound. A blood test will often show that the patient’s white blood cell count is elevated, which is a sign of infection.
Appendicitis is a very common condition. Over 300,000 appendectomies are performed in the United States every year!
If the appendix becomes inflamed and is not removed in a timely fashion, it can rupture or cause an abscess.
The first appendectomy, or removal of the appendix, didn’t happen until 1735. A London surgeon successful removed the perforated appendix of an 11-year-old boy. The boy made a quick recovery (for those days), and was successfully discharged from the hospital in a month!